Police have arrested a leading gay rights campaigner in a violent pushback against young people during a rally against the upcoming referendum on the Tunisian president’s newly proposed constitution. Police violently shoved protesters marching on Friday in a vocal but peaceful demonstration as they headed towards the Ministry of Interior in the centre of Tunis to demonstrate against President Kais Saied’s newly penned constitution and demand an end to the referendum process. Al Jazeera witnessed beatings and other violent abuses of protesters, and also saw police use pepper spray. President Saied published his new draft constitution at the end of last month, ahead of a referendum scheduled for July 25 where Tunisians will vote to accept or reject the document. July 25 marks a year since Saied sacked Tunisia’s prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed executive authority, citing a national emergency in a move critics have called a coup. Two months later he announced he would rule by decree, and dismantled many of the country’s democratic state institutions including the Supreme Judicial Council. In June, he fired dozens of judges accusing them of corruption and “terrorism”, further consolidating his power. Saied says he has implemented a period of exceptional measures to save the country from any imminent danger but his critics say his actions have only exacerbated the political and economic crises facing Tunisians who are struggling amid high inflation and unemployment, and declining public services.