The protesters denounced Valls' remarks, claiming they showed France is interfering in Tunisia's internal affairs. The demonstrators gathered in front of the National Theater, waving flags of the Ennahda party and shouting "Get out, France!"
The main thoroughfare was bustling, with cafes full and shops reopened after a general strike Friday. Police in riot armor and plainclothes officers patrolled, but the protest was peaceful — in contrast to the aftermath of Friday's funeral when police fired tear gas amid running street battles in Tunis.
Valls said on Europe 1 radio Thursday that Belaid was "one of the democrats and we must support these democrats so that the values of the Jasmine Revolution are not betrayed. There is an Islamic fascism rising everywhere, but this obscurantism must, of course, be condemned because it denies the democracy for which the Libyan, Tunisian and Egyptian people have fought."
Valls was clearly referring to Salafists, with their strict interpretation of Islam, who have come to the fore and smeared Ennahda's moderate image. At least one black Salafi flag was spotted in the sea of white Ennahda flags at Saturday's demonstration, which took place near the well-guarded French Embassy.
Fathi Rhayem, a teacher, said the demonstration "shows the Tunisian peoples' desire to show that it is sovereign, it is independent and is no longer under French protection." He said, "We want to show that we want to live on equal terms with France, as friends with reciprocal interests but not like a dominant and a dominated. The policy of submission ... is finished now."
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