'Liberation caravan' keeps pressure on Tunisia's old guard while Yemen sees copycat protests

While Tunisians demand departure of former president's allies in a 'liberation caravan', Yemeni activists launch copycat protests in Sanaa.

Khaled Abdullah/Reuters
Protesters shout slogans during a protest against the arrest of rights activist Tawakul Karman, outside the Attorny General's office, in Sanaa Sunday. Yemen has arrested Karman who led student rallies against the government in the capital last week, sparking a new wave of protests.

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Protests continue to roil Tunisia as hundreds broke a nighttime curfew to march in a "liberation caravan" to demand the immediate resignation of the former president's allies from the interim government. And in Yemen, journalists protested the detention of the organizer of Tunisia-inspired protests in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.

Al Jazeera reports that the caravan, consisting of several hundred Tunisians, launched on Saturday night from the region where Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in the event that triggered the Tunisian protests. The protesters then traveled on foot and by bus to the capital of Tunis, where they gathered in front of the interior ministry.

BBC News reports that the protest is seeking the resignation of Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, a former ally of deposed President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

While Mr. Ghannouchi has promised to resign from the government in six months after he has finished overseeing new elections, many protesters view Ghannouchi and the interim government, which contains many members of Mr. Ben Ali's ruling Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD) party, as retaining too many ties to the former, corrupt regime. "The aim of this caravan is to make the government fall," a teacher participating in the protest told BBC News.

Even police are protesting

The caravan protests are just the latest in protests that have been ongoing since the interim government met for the first time on Thursday. Protesters continue to demand the ouster of RCD members from the new government, and were joined on Saturday by some two thousand Tunisian police, who took to the streets in their own march. The British Press Association reports that the police, traditionally closely tied to Ben Ali's regime, joined calls for an RCD-free interim government, and also sought the creation of a trade union and better pay.

[Rida Barreh, an internal security officer at the protest,] said he wanted a union to help defend police officers' interests and wanted to convince Tunisians in general that "we are here for the people and we want to serve the people."

"The government always made sure the people were scared of us but this must end," he said. "Also I don't want the blood of our martyrs on my hands."

Another officer, Nabil Jazeeri, said: "We need to forget the past and realise there is no home in Tunis that doesn't have a police officer or a man serving in the army."

Copycat protest in Yemen

The success of the Tunisian protesters has inspired copycat protests across the Arab world, the latest in Yemen, where a press freedom activist was arrested on Saturday night after she led a rally calling for political reform.

Agence France-Presse reports that some 200 journalists took to the streets of Sanaa, Yemen's capital, on Sunday to protest the detention of Tawakel Karman, leader of the rights group Women Journalists Without Chains, and others whom the government seized after protests on the campus of Sanaa University on Saturday. Ms. Karman led several hundred students in two rallies Saturday to criticize Arab leaders and call for the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Witnesses reported clashes between students and riot police.

Al Jazeera adds that anti-Saleh protests also occurred in the port city of Aden, where police injured four protesters and detained 22 others. Al Jazeera also notes that the protests in Yemen mark the first large-scale challenge to Mr. Saleh's 32-year rule. Saleh has cut income taxes and tried to control prices in the aftermath of the Tunisia revolt, likely in an attempt to prevent a similar uprising by the Yemeni people, nearly half of whom live in poverty.

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