CAIRO: Egyptian security bodies cracked down on hundreds of demonstrators protesting against the succession of Gamal Mubarak to his father, incumbent President Hosni Mubarak, on Tuesday.
The demonstration was scheduled to take place in front of Abdeen Palace, the former residence of Egypt’s King Farouk, in downtown Cairo, but hundreds of riot police surrounded the area from Mohamed Farid Square to Abdeen Square, closing off all the main routes leading to the palace and preventing many protestors from reaching the location.
The underground metro exits were also blocked by riot police, described by activist Ahmed Samir as “an Egyptian army.”
Many protestors were beaten and detained for hours by riot police to prevent them from reaching the location of the demonstration and several reporters were also prevented from going through.
“The police started surrounding the area at 3:30 pm. The violations and detentions started at 5 pm. Kefaya headquarters, which is near Abdeen Square, was completely surrounded by riot police and a number of activists were detained near Bab El-Louq on their way to the demonstrations,” general coordinator of the Kefaya Movement for Change Abdel Halim Qandil told Daily News Egypt.
“We chose Abdeen Palace because it has a vast empty space in front of it, so the demonstration wouldn’t obstruct the flow of traffic,” he added.
Black-clad riot police eventually managed to contain the demonstration, dividing it into three separate pockets of protesters, including one on Sabry Abou Alam Street between Mohamed Farid Street and Talaat Harb Square.
The biggest demo according to eye witnesses was the one held near Abdeen Palace which included around 300 demonstrators.
“I’ve been trying to get to the demonstration, but all the roads are blocked by riot police, I took out my phone to take a picture of the sight, when I found 10 policemen grabbing me and pushing me to the ground, they took my phone and ID card and surrounded me in a cordon for around 15 minutes before letting me go,” lawyer Ahmed Adel told Daily News Egypt.
A member of Youth for Justice and Freedom group, Soulaf Magdi, told Daily News Egypt she was pushed by riot police and hit on her back on Mohamed Farid Street to prevent her from reaching Abdeen Palace.
Hundreds of riot police surrounded the protestors in tight cordons.
Opposition groups — mainly comprised of the April 6 Youth Movement and Kefaya —chanted against the president and burned small posters of his son, Gamal.
According to eye witnesses, head of the freedoms committee at the Journalists’ Syndicate Mohamed Abdel Qoddous and another activist were brutally beaten by riot police.
Police also confiscated videotapes from BBC and Al-Jazeera cameramen at the protest, according to the reporters.
According to Ramy Raoof, a volunteer with the Front for the Defense of Egypt’s Protestors, 14 were arrested in Cairo, 29 in Alexandria and 10 in Port Said. Protestors from Cairo and Port Said were all released before 2 am Wednesday morning. Although Raoof said he expected that all activists were released he couldn’t confirm the same happened to those arrested in Alexandria.
Qandil had earlier estimated that 30 activists were arrested on Tuesday.
Some were later released on the desert road between Cairo and Ain Sokhna, others in Al Moqattam and on the Cairo-Ismailia road.
Another demonstration that was scheduled to take place simultaneously in Alexandria was also broken up by Egyptian police and many activists were detained for hours.
The protests coincide with the anniversary of the march led by Ahmed Orabi, army general and national political leader who revolted against Egyptian monarchy and foreign influence in the country in 1881.
One hundred and twenty-nine years later, the protestors chanted Orabi’s famous quote, “No inheritance after today."
"We are not slaves or property. God created us free people," the demonstrators chanted.
“What has President Mubarak done in the past 30 years to prepare Egyptians for democracy? Things here are just getting worse,” said Hany El-Garab, 36, an engineer from Cairo.
Concerns about the president’s health surfaced recently following his surgery in Germany, reigniting speculation that Gamal Mubarak is being groomed to succeed his father, sparking fury among opposition groups.
“This demonstration is an attempt to show the regime that we are against the succession of Gamal Mubarak to the presidency,” said Ayman Nour, leader of the opposition Ghad Party.
“We will not stop, and this regime will not stop us from reaching our goals,” he added.
Mubarak has not yet announced if he will run for another term and extend his nearly 30-year rule.
Several campaigns were launched recently supporting Gamal Mubarak as Egypt’s next president. It is widely believed that members of the National Democratic Party are behind these campaigns, although the party has repeatedly denied it.
“Egypt is not a piece of property to be inherited from father to son. Gamal, who has led the policies committee since 2001, has driven the country to poverty and hunger,” Nagi Kamel, member of Youth for Justice and Freedom group, told Daily News Egypt.
“This is a corrupt regime headed by a group of opportunist thieves called businessmen,” he added.
“We will still speak our minds no matter what. We’ve become immune to their beatings and detentions,” Khaled Al-Masry, head of the human rights group Freedom is Now, told Daily News Egypt.
Plain clothed policemen try to remove political activist and Journalist Mohamed Abdel-Qoddous from the site of the protest in Cairo on Sept. 21. (AFP Photo/Khaled Desouki)
Photo by Alfred Huber.
AFP Photo/Khaled Desouki