Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Egyptian police smothers protests against emergency law
Police on 6 April quickly quelled a scheduled peaceful demonstration in Cairo with an array of security measures, including violent interventions and on-the-spot arrests. Planned protests in Alexandria and other cities throughout Egypt were also broken up by security personnel.
According to human rights watchdogs, up to 93 activists were detained as they headed towards downtown Cairo to partake in a protest in front of the Shura Council (the upper, consultative chamber of parliament). Some were reportedly beaten.
Activists were from the 6 April Youth Movement, the leftist Tagammu Party, the liberal Ghad Party and the National Association for Change(NAC)--Mohamed ElBaradei's pro-reform coalition--and from other groups.
Protesters had planned to walk from downtown Cairo's Tahrir Square to the nearby People’s Assembly in an attempt to emulate the 6 April, 2008 general strike and protest Egypt's longstanding Emergency Law. They were intercepted, however, by security forces determined to curb the scheduled demonstrations.
Ayman Nour, leader of the Ghad party surrounded by police (picture Ahmed Hayman)
In downtown Cairo's Talaat Harb square, anti-riot forces and police trucks surrounded the premises of the Ghad Party, whose leader, Ayman Nour, was reportedly banned from taking to the street. Nour, along with bullhorn-wielding supporters, chanted from the building's terrrace: “Mubarak, Egypt is not your dad’s property."
Meanwhile, some 70 protesters converged at the Egyptian Lawyers’ Syndicate with signs reading, “We're being strangled.” “Open the prison doors, for tomorrow the revolution will rise,” they shouted. They were also cordoned off by dozens of riot police who eventually broke up the protest.
The date of 6 April has a special significance in Egypt. On that day in 2008 workers from the state-run Ghazl el-Mahalla textile factory in the Delta city of Mahalla attempted to call a labor strike to protest low wages and rising food prices. Numbers of young Egyptians used the Facebook website to call for a general strike in solidarity with the Mahalla workers.The strike was aborted after police occupied the factory, but the city of Mahalla erupted in a two-day uprising that was met with rubber bullets and live ammunition. Three citizens died and hundreds were arrested.