The square before the Finance Ministry is thronging with young people at 8am. There is a major university campus opposite, but these young people aren't just taking a stroll to class on a rainy morning. The scene is one that Tunisians are used to but jolts my children as we walk through the crowds. For the unarmed but noisy students are facing and chanting at military lorries and jeeps parked at one end of the square, guarded by equally youthful soldiers, looking, Id' say, sheepish. At the other end of the tree filled square there is less uncertainty. Older men, in black state uniforms gather around a rotund commander in the peaked cap beloved by the likes of Gadaffi. Side arms are on display and British MP, Jeremy Corbyn, himself no stranger to demos for three decades, points out two water cannon trucks on standby, almost hidden by the rush hour traffic. OUrghemmi Manel is a 19 year old, in her first year of a Business English course. She takes my pad and pen and writes; 'We want to put these persons who are working in our government out, because they were working with Ben Ali in the past. We are here to say 'What are you (these officials) doing here (still in office)? This is not your place.'
The question of whether the army is 'with' the people hangs unanswered in the damp air. For three decades all tiers of the military have worked with secret police to suppress basic freedoms for Tunisians. Freedom of speech, press freedom, the right to education, the right to trial by jury, were just a sample of the collaboration between the forces and the Ben Ali regime. This is why the people here protesting reject absolutely 'the Egyptian option' of having an interim military state whilst a democratic process takes shape. When I meet officials from the Islamic Al Nadha party they ask 'What will happen when the army is in power and the pressure on the streets eases off, what then?' But more from Al Nadha later.
Jeremy Corbyn and I leave the scene at the Casbar in one of the bone crunching, miniscule local taxis. Did I mention that the people here can't stop talking (politics) now? Well, the driver had some juicy political gossip to impart. 'The Presidential Palace has been opened for the first time and guess what was found inside the Palace Library? Bookcases stuffed, brimming with international currency. 'Enough to fund three new governments' he sighs shaking his head.