Central Security Forces trucks were all over Tahrir Sq since early morning, and in Ramsis St close to the lawyersâ€™ and journalistsâ€™ syndicates. More troops were also stationed behind the Mugama3 near the US embassy. While CSF conscripts mostly remained inside their trucks, Tahrir was swarmed with uniformed and plainclothes police officers, State Security agents, and the paramilitary brigades of criminal thugs whom the police are increasingly depending on to keep â€œlaw and orderâ€� in the street. There was also a battalion of thugs stationed around the corner of the Egyptian Museum on the side of 3abdel Mon3eim Riyad Sq (Iâ€™m sure Western tourists on their way into the museum felt safer and secure with such a lovely sight.)
A handful of activists who showed up early (11:40am) in front of the Arab League HQ were soon surrounded by thugs, plainclothes State Security officers, who ordered them to leave. The activists had formed a delegation that was to get into the Arab League HQ to present a message to its secretariat, denouncing the Leagueâ€™s (as always) weak response to the Israeli attacks.
Mohamed Waked, one of the activists present in the scene, told me the State Security officers intimidated and pushed nine activists inside the HQ, saying they could either get into the Leagueâ€™s building swiftly to meet the assistant secretary general, or get into the prisonersâ€™ trucks. The police was very nervous, and did not want a crowd that can draw more attention of the people in the square. Waked, who was not part of the delegation, said he was pushed by the officers inside against his will. Others included, Kamal Abu 3eita, Mohamed 3abdel Quddos and Ahmad Rami, MB activist at the pharmacistsâ€™ syndicate.
The activists were met by Ahmad Bin Hilla, 3amr Moussaâ€™s assistant. They protested their treatment by the police, but Bin Hilla said this was an â€œEgyptian internal affairâ€� that the League did not want to intervene in. The activists presented him with a statement, denouncing the Leagueâ€™s weak stand and lack of support for the Palestinians. Bin Hilla replied, giving them the expected we-are-doing-our-best diplomatic crap.
Meanwhile, small scattered groups of activists were trying to assemble in Tahrir, but were intimidated by the police, who threatened them with arrest, and were pushing them across the streets to disperse. The activists, mainly socialists and Nasserists from the Karama faction, were exponentially outnumbered by the police, who kept on shoving them all the way from Tahrir Sq to Tal3at Harb sq. The scene was bizarre, and reminded me of the Labor Day demo, where security intimidation against an exponentially outnumbered activists meant run for-your-life kinda situation. After being cornered in Tal3at Harb, around 20 activists decided to head to the Press Syndicate. They were marching in the street, and sometimes running, followed by at least 300 plainclothes security. Whenever any activist stopped walking, even to light a cigarette, battalions of security agents would start pushing him or her to move. The security also kidnapped Wael 3abass in Qasr el-Nil St, and kept him in custody for few minutes, before the rest of the activists assembled and started screaming and shouting till he was released. The same situation happened few minutes later with another activist from the Karama faction who raised Nasserâ€™s poster while walking. The activists decided then if they canâ€™t demonstrate or chant, the least they could do is to raise their hands up with V signs to attract attention of the public, as they ran for refuge at the press syndicate.
It was around 1:15pm that the CSF conscripts were moved to surround the syndicate, but did not bar those who wanted to get in. Under Cairoâ€™s burning July sun, 30 or 40 at best, activists stood with banners denouncing the US, Israel and Mubarak, waiving Palestinian flags, and chanting. They were joined by Kamal Abu 3eita and Mohamed 3abdel Quddos after they were â€œreleasedâ€� from the Arab League HQ.