A man in a car driving by Abdel Moneim Riyadh Square honked four times and flashed a victory sign in the direction the square on Sunday at noon. Approximately 100 protesters stood in the area, in defiance of the authorities’ calls to stay away from all public demonstrations on the fourth anniversary of the 25 January Revolution.
Police and military personnel were present in force. All points of access to Tahrir Square, downtown, were blocked by barricades and armoured personnel carriers draped with Egyptian flags.
The Abdel Moneim Riyadh side was the most heavily guarded of all the entry points to Tahrir. The barbed wire barricades were backed by five armoured personnel carriers parked alongside the Egyptian Museum. Behind the wall of the museum, men in uniform stood guard in small watchtowers, their automatic weapons pointed towards the crowd.
Next to the museum wall, dozens of agents in plain clothes stood in the area between the barricades and Mohamed Basiuni Street. Some of them held radios and could be seen talking to police officers and giving instructions. Several riot police vans, some mounted with a gunner standing atop a turret on the roof of the vehicle, were parked at their side.
This was the same location that witnessed the largest protest in downtown Cairo in the past year, when thousands gathered to protest against the Cairo Criminal Court’s decision to drop all charges against former president Hosni Mubarak on 29 November.
The protesters on Sunday stood farther afield, where Ramsis Street begins and under the 6 October Bridge. Some held Egyptian flags in an effort to counter the authorities’ narrative that security forces are the ones standing for Egypt.
The protest’s meagre turnout could be a sign of the fear people now have of such public gatherings. Security forces, after all, have made it very clear that they are willing to use live fire to disperse demonstrations, even in downtown Cairo, where such incidents are likely to be recorded on camera and receive national attention.
The Ministry of Interior released a statement on Sunday afternoon, saying security forces had dispersed a small gathering of people who were trying to enter Tahrir from Abdel Monem Riyadh. The statement also noted that 12 alleged members of the Muslim Brotherhood group were arrested during the dispersal. Daily News Egypt had already left the area at that time.