The past two nights of clashes between the police and protesters from several neighborhoods of the southeastern town, Medenine, have resulted in the destruction of a police station and the arrest of several people. According to two separate eyewitnesses, order was only restored after the intervention of the army, which was forced to fire shots in the air to disperse protesters.
The demonstrators have been calling for a general strike as a response to what they regard as government indifference towards their depressing economic situation.
Marwen Othmana, a 29-year unemployed young man from the region, took part in a protest on Monday. He told Tunisia Live that the protest was in response to high levels of unemployment and lack of economic opportunities in one of Tunisia’s most underprivileged towns. “Our economic situation is getting more and more cynical as days go by. There is not a single sign of development likely to occur in this place, which made all the unemployed youth take to the streets again as a sign of indignation,” he said.
Othmana asserted that the protest initially had no political goals. “Jobless youth can never be manipulated by political interests. All what we claim is our right to have a decent job.”
According to Othmana, as the protest started to grow on Monday, the governor addressed the crowd with a megaphone while policemen surrounded him for protection. At that moment, clashes between the protesters and some police officers broke out and the latter resorted to tear gas. Othmana said that later the same evening, police arrested a number of protesters at their homes, which only fueled local anger. In the aftermath of the arrests, a police station was set ablaze.
Bill Code, a freelance journalist who witnessed the aftermath of the events, told Tunisia Live that although the fire brigade came to put the initial fire out, as of this morning smoke was still emerging from the building.