Photo Credit: Lisa Ferdinando / US Department of Defense / public domain
The presidential palace of Tunisia, in Tunis, Sept. 30, 2020.

Thousands of protesters attempted to storm Tunisia’s Parliament Building on Monday in the nation’s capital Sunday on Tunisia’s Republic Day, after President Kais Saied fired Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspended parliamentary action for 30 days.

Saied also suspended lawmakers’ parliamentary immunity, declaring that he had “taken the necessary decisions to save Tunisia, the state and the Tunisian people.”

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One day later, Saied also sacked the government’s defense minister. His actions came amid protests over the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic issues.

Tunisia’s 2014 constitution mandates executive power to be shared by the president, prime minister and the parliament.

Tunisia, the Arab nation where the Arab Spring was launched as the Jasmine Revolution in January 2011, was also the sole democracy in the region to survive that turbulent era.

In addition to surrounding the Parliament, Tunisian military forces also stormed the Tunis bureau of Qatar-based Al Jazeera, ordering news staff to leave the building, according to the news outlet. The forces confiscated equipment and barred staff from returning to the bureau to retrieve their personal belongings, Al Jazeera reported.

Tunisian military forces were deployed to the government palace on Monday morning. They also blocked moderate Islamist party head Rachid Ghannouchi, who is also the Speaker of the Parliament, from entering the Parliament building.

Protesters have been expressing anger in the past several months over widely documented police brutality, according to local journalist Francesca Ebel.

“Today’s protests were marked by a particular viciousness on the side of the police. Use of tear gas was scarce; more about blunt force, random arrests and scare tactics. There were several moments when police rushed protestors causing a panicked stampede,” Ebel reported. However, she added, “Rocks and flares were thrown at police from protesters.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.