CAIRO: The day of anger announced by the April 6 Youth Movement drew very few protestors in Downtown Cairo.
State security investigations prevented a demonstration scheduled to be held outside the Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions at noon. Large numbers of men in plain-clothing were grouped in rows on each side of the Federation building, and individuals – including journalists – who attempted to stand in the vicinity, were ushered to move on by state security investigations officer Hisham El-Iraqy and other officers.
El-Iraqy told Daily News Egypt, “There won’t be anything today. When asked, he then clarified and said, “In all of Cairo. The only place where a protest is going to happen is at the Journalists’ Syndicate.
El-Iraqy’s comments would seem to confirm media reports from two days ago according to which state security investigations had sent out verbal orders ahead of April 6 that anyone attempting to protest should be prevented from doing so.
The security presence at the Journalists’ Syndicate outnumbered the 60 protestors who joined the demonstration.
A variety of political opposition movements were represented at the protest, with the notable absence of the Muslim Brotherhood which, while it had endorsed the protest did not announce its intention to take part in it.
Al Ghad party leader Ayman Nour arrived approximately two hours into the protest and received a rapturous reception from protestors and notably the tens of journalists present who scrambled to photograph Nour.
Chanting “down with Hosni Mubarak and “state security [investigations officers] are the state’s dogs, the protestors condemned the sale of gas to Israel and condemned rising food prices.
Abdel-Halim Qandil, coordinator of the Kefaya Movement for change, when asked to comment on the protest said that “the protest had been wrongly presented by some of the media .
“We didn’t call for a general strike. The various political forces involved called for a day of anger in memory of April 6, 2008 – an unprecedented day in Egypt’s history.
He explained that the poor turnout for the strike “is a long and complicated issue .
The April 6 Youth Movement had billed April 6 as both a general strike and a day of anger, a year after a call for a general strike throughout Egypt.
The call for a general strike was entirely in Downtown Cairo where shops and businesses were open and the streets busy with traffic.
This contrasts notably with last year when Cairo’s streets were emptier. Observers speculated that rather than being a response to the call for a general strike, this may have been a reaction to televised threats by the Interior Ministry against anyone taking part in protests.
Nada Qassas, another member of Kefaya, viewed the day’s action in a positive light despite the low turnout. “It is important for three reasons; firstly, young people came up with the idea, secondly it helps protestors to gather experience of peaceful civil disobedience and thirdly, unites isolated centers of dissent .
In spite of the low turnout, around 45 people were arrested throughout Egypt, including Al-Masry Al-Youm photographer Hossam Fadl who was covering demonstrations at Ain Shams University. He was released an hour later. Nine students arrested at the same university remained in custody up to press time.
According to reports, 12 were arrested in Kafr El-Sheikh, five in Mennoufiya, two in Alexandria, two in Damnhour, two in Sharqeya, one in Fayoum, and one in Port Saied.