Hundreds of protesters occupied the Place des Droits de l’Homme in downtown Tunis today as part of the call to use the date of 11/11/11 to spread the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street protests across the world.
Around 200 people gathered in the square, nearly all of them young, but from varied backgrounds: artists, students, activists, some religious and some not, and coming from all parts of the country. What brought them together was an opposition to what they called global imperialism and capitalism. Protesters held banners with slogans like No More Capitalism and Artistic Revolution against Capitalism,” sang freedom songs, and played music with homemade instruments.
Many leftist groups and political parties had a strong presence at the scene, but several of the protesters described themselves as independents.
Houssam Hamdi, a young man from Gafsa in the southwest of Tunisia, was one such independent. Wearing a T-shirt that read Occupying Tunis and No More Capitalism,” he described his reasons for attending the demonstration. Imperialism is already destroying itself,” he said, adding that the protest was just a way to push a little bit further that destruction.
The communist sickle and hammer and other leftist political signs were present in abundance, but a young woman who identified herself as Affef chose different signs: she wore both a traditional version of the hijab headscarf and a Tunisian flag around her neck. She was there because, as she said, as a Muslim it's an obligation to protest against imperialism. She went on to say, Arab people are the first victims of capitalism.”
Ayoub Amara of The Union for Communist Youth (a branch of one of Tunisia’s communist parties) saw the activities of his group as a continuation of Tunisia’s democracy movement. He said, The party has never left the street, before and after the January 14th. He explained that for his party, demonstrating was the only way to reach its goals.
Speeches were giving by representatives of the Tunisian Worker’s Communist Party and other leftist parties promoting socialism as the solution to the current economic situation in Tunisia and in the world at large.
The call for “Occupy the World” movement to take place on 11/11/11 came from the United States, where Wall Street occupiers have been protesting for months against economic inequality in that country. In Tunisia the message of solidarity with workers was present, but the protest had a more post-colonial angle, with protesters shouting slogans like no more imperialism.
Like in certain OWS protests in the US, the demonstration was marked by a moment of violent confrontation between police and protesters. According to Houssam Hamdi, the violence was started by the protesters, but the police response was out of proportion to the provocation. This moment passed without major incident and the protests ended peacefully.