CAIRO: International activists from the Gaza Freedom March (GFM) continued protest action against the Egyptian government’s refusal to let them into Gaza with a demonstration in downtown Cairo on Thursday and another outside the Israeli Embassy in Cairo on Friday.
GFM protestors were allowed to demonstrate in front of the Israeli embassy on Friday, traditionally a red line for Egyptian protestors.
According to GFM member Laura Durkay, writing on Twitter, the police presence was “low-key. This, and the fact that the demonstration was allowed to go ahead at all was attributed by observers and GFM members themselves to the fact that all of those taking part in the GFM are non-Egyptians.
Demonstrators congregated Thursday opposite the Egyptian Museum before sitting down in the busy road that leads off Tahrir Square and passes by the museum.
Writing on her blog Dirt Worship, GFM protestor Starhawk writes that “the plan was to flash-mob into the streets.
The Egyptian police, present in large numbers, responded immediately. Protestors allege that the police manhandled them, and used violence.
Mobile videos posted by GFM member Sam Husseini show a scene of chaos as protestors are removed. In one video a riot police officer is seen lashing out randomly with punches at protestors.
Catalonian Manal Ros told Daily News Egypt that the police “beat some people and then pushed us back to the sidewalk.
There were reports of 10 protestors receiving minor injuries that were treated at the scene, though this could not be verified.
American student Ruqaya Shams El-Din described what had happened to her.
“We planned on marching, and we chose to act via non-violence. We sat on the floor. Even though we were sitting, we were dragged by our legs. I was slapped on the face and dragged across the street, Shams El-Din told Daily News Egypt.
“They were extremely aggressive. There were people bleeding, Shams El-Din continued. She added that protestors had intended to march towards Gaza, towards a “metaphorical destination.
The police, who barricaded a hotel entrance, prevented some GFM members from leaving their hotel in downtown Cairo for several hours.
The some 500 protestors occupied a stretch of pavement for roughly six hours, tightly penned in by a cordon of riot police. While the mood was peaceful, and protestors were allowed to leave at will, passersby were urged to move on quickly and television crews were not allowed to film the protest.
“We all felt great about the action, Starhawk writes on her blog.
“Against all odds, we had done what we set out to do – to say to the Egyptian authorities and the world, ‘if you won’t let us go to Gaza, we’ll simply start from here and walk.’ If you want to stop us, you’ll have to physically stop us – we won’t comply with your orders.
In addition, protestors were allowed to hold a candlelit vigil the same night in Tahrir Square without any interference by the police other than preventing Egyptians wishing to join the vigil from doing so.
Some GFM members launched a hunger strike on Sunday, in protest at the Egyptian government’s refusal to let the some 1,400 members of the GFM into Gaza.
In a press statement issued yesterday, GFM said that the hunger strikers “vow to continue and are calling for “mass participation.