CAIRO: Political activists expressed anger Monday after a march planned by opposition activists and MPs from Cairo’s central Tahrir Square to the People’s Assembly was canceled.
The interior ministry announced that permission had been denied for the march on Sunday. A host of legislation, including the emergency law, criminalizes protest action which takes place without the prior consent of the interior ministry.
Kefaya head Abdel-Halim Qandil said during the protest which took place in Tahrir Square Monday that the interior ministry’s “repeated refusal to grant permission for protests” demonstrates that it is “conspiring against the constitution”.
The march had been announced by Muslim Brotherhood (MB) member and MP Hamdy Hussein on April 13, during an April 6 Youth Movement protest outside the People’s Assembly.
A delegation of MPs and political activists planned to meet PA head Fathy Sorour in order to submit a list of four demands: an end to the state of emergency, an end to repeated detentions of political prisoners, the passing of legislation which will allow free and fair elections and the amendment of constitutional Articles 76, 77 and 88.
MB MPs and members of the National Coalition for Change initially told the press during the protest that they would go ahead with the march, despite the interior ministry’s refusal.
Hassan Nafaa, coordinator of the National Coalition, then announced that the march had been cancelled for the “public interest” and that further demonstrations would take place in the future “if the government does not respond to our demands.”
Kefaya activist Karima El-Hefnawy told reporters that the march did not take place because “all members of the political coalition which had called for it agreed it should not take place.”
MP Mohamed El-Beltagy then announced the end of the protest, amidst condemnation from some activists such as Gamila Ismail, a member of the Egyptian Women for Change group, who shouted, “This is not what we agreed. We haven’t done anything new today.”
“We were informed that there’s a warning and if we go ahead with the march we’ll be detained for six months. We said we’d do it anyway and that we reject the interior ministry’s decision,” El-Beltagy said.
“We came here today fully intending to do the march. It was planned that a delegation of us would go to meet the PA Speaker. When he said that he would only meet MPs and that he refused to meet Yahya El-Gamal, Hamdy Qandil and others we said that the march was of no value.
“The decision wasn’t a result of pressure, or fear, and if it was decided in the future to go out into the streets we’re prepared to do so,” he added.
Members of the April 6 Youth Movement attempted to break through the tight security cordon placed around the protestors but were prevented from doing so. This was succeeded by another attempt initiated by Ismail and other members of Egyptian Women for Change after the MPs present at the protest had left.
Clashes erupted between protestors and members of the Central Security Forces who charged the crowd of the roughly 40 protestors present.
Daily News Egypt video footage shows one policeman using a wooden stick to beat protestors, while some protestors were also seen holding sticks and hurling objects at the policemen during the brief clashes.
According to unconfirmed reports one protestor, Ahmed El-Douma, was arrested.
More clashes between demonstrators and police in Downtown Cairo, May 3, 2010 (Daily News Egypt Photo/Sarah Carr)
Female cops manhandle demonstrators on May 3, 2010 (Daily News Egypt Photo/Sarah Carr)