TUNIS, TUNISIA - Violent demonstrations broke out on Sunday in several Tunisian cities as protesters expressed anger at the deterioration of the country's health, economic and social situation.
Thousands of people defied virus restrictions and scorching heat to demonstrate in the capital of Tunis and other cities. The largely young crowds shouted "Get out!" and slogans calling for the dissolution of parliament and early elections.
The protests were called on the 64th anniversary of Tunisia's independence by a new group called the July 25 Movement.
Security forces deployed in force, especially in Tunis where police blockades shut down all streets leading to the main artery of the capital, Avenue Bourguiba. The avenue was a key site for the Tunisian revolution a decade ago that brought down a dictatorial regime and unleashed the Arab Spring uprisings.
Police also deployed around the parliament, preventing demonstrators from accessing it.
Police used tear gas to disperse some demonstrators who were throwing projectiles at officers and made several arrests. Clashes also took place in several other towns, notably in Nabeul, Sousse, Kairouan, Sfax and Tozeur.
Protesters also stormed the offices of the Islamist movement Ennahdha, the dominant force in parliament. Videos circulating online showed smoke pouring out of the Ennahdha building. The attackers damaged computers and other equipment inside and threw documents onto the streets.
The party denounced the attack, saying that "criminal gangs" from inside and outside Tunisia are trying to "seed chaos and destruction in the service of an agenda aimed at harming the Tunisian democratic process."
Tunisia is facing one of Africa's worst coronavirus outbreaks and has reimposed lockdowns and other virus restrictions. About 7% of its population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.