A vigil held to commemorate the victims killed during the armed forces’ deadly attack on predominantly Coptic protesters two years ago, dubbed by the media as the Maspero Massacre, soon turned into a march which was prevented from entering Tahrir Square on Wednesday.
A number of political movements had called for a silent protest in front of the Maspero building on Wednesday in commemoration of the massacre’s second anniversary. The movements included the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP), the Social Popular Alliance Party (SPAP), the 6 April (Democratic Front) movement and the Revolutionary Socialists.
Mustafa Al-Haggary, spokesman of the 6 April movement, accused security forces of preventing protesters from entering the square and harassing them. He claimed that when protesters turned around to head back to Maspero, security forces began randomly attacking and arresting them.
Al-Haggary said that due to the large number of protesters outside Maspero, which he estimated to be around 3000, some of the organisers decided to lead a march to Tahrir Square then back to the Maspero building.
“We made it clear that those who wish to abide by our original plan and end the silent protest are welcome to go ahead, while those who want to continue and march to the square are also welcome,” Al-Haggary said. He added that those who headed for Tahrir Square were around 1000.
Shereen Farouk, Rights and Freedoms Secretariat at the ESDP, said the party and most other organisers ended their silent protest outside Maspero at 7 pm, as planned, then decided to head back home.
Al-Haggary said that as the protesters went past Abdel Moneim Riad Square and tried entering Tahrir Square near the Egyptian Museum, they found security forces blocking the entrance. They were prevented from entering the square.
“It was very provocative,” Al-Haggary said. “How could the revolutionaries be prevented from entering their square? Is Tahrir Square now reserved to pro-army demonstrators?”
Al-Haggary claimed that while protesters, provoked and shocked, decided to turn away from the square, security forces began attacking them with teargas and birdshot. He claimed they were chased around with armoured vehicles on the side streets of the square, and that the security forces began randomly arresting people.
“How could they use teargas and birdshot against revolutionaries trying to enter Tahrir Square?” Al-Haggary asked.
Both Farouk and Al-Haggary denied that any Muslim Brotherhood supporters were present in the protest or in the march.
“Brotherhood supporters don’t protest in solidarity with Copts,” Al-Haggary said. “Besides, the current enmity between us and the Muslim Brotherhood would prevent its supporters from joining our protests.”
Al-Haggary stated that any “claims” that Muslim Brotherhood supporters were part of the protest are false “justification” for attacking the protesters.
“We refuse such false claims,” Al-Haggary said. “This will be the security forces’ excuse to disperse our sit-ins, attack and arrest us.”
The Ministry of Interior has not yet released a statement regarding Wednesday’s incidents around Tahrir Square.
On 9 October 2011, 28 protesters were killed and over 200 were injured when a largely Christian march protested against the razing of a church in Aswan and the governorate’s subsequent inaction. Most of the protesters died from live ammunition and being run over by military armed personnel carriers in front of the state radio and television building, known as Maspero, in downtown Cairo.