The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

The Latest Anti-Mubarak Demonstration

This afternoon at Cairo University the Popular Campaign for Change held the third Anti-Mubarak demonstration in two and a half months.

The Popular Campaign for Change, aka Kifaya (or Enough), gathered at Cairo U's main gate a little before 1pm. Several journalist friends and I decided that a fair estimate of protesters to be in the neighborhood of 200 people. Hence, this is considerably smaller than Kifaya hoped would turn out today. It is also smaller than the previous two demonstrations.

As my colleague mentioned, "this is not even big enough to close down traffic" as we snapped photos and compared it to other protests we had previously witnessed. We noted that the Economist, BBC, Reuters, and Cairo magazine were there as well as a number of the Arabic satellite channels and reporters.

Also, it was noted that the same demonstrators that are always there were present. Today's demo included some Nasserists, Socialist, and Islamists (from Hizb al-`Amal). The Muslim Brotherhood was absent (from our spot accounting). Yet, it is sort of a misnomer to discuss the protesters in such terms because I think it takes away from what they are doing by boxing in them with a particular trend. It seemed a cross-section of society were there even if the numbers were not large.

A few times, the encircled protesters tried to say things about Abu Mazen and Dahlan but quickly quieted to refocus on the Mubarak family, corruption, and inheritance of power. The most common slogans chanted were "Usqut Mubarak" (Down with Mubarak), and "La lil-Mubarak, La lil-Gamal" (No to Mubarak, No to Gamal). My colleague also said they sang the Egyptian national anthem with the words of Kifaya although that was before I arrived.

Around 145pm, the protest began to thin. Five minutes later, it seemed to pick-up again. The only semi-confrontational moment was when one protester demanded space and had a heated exchange with an Amn Markazi (Central Security) soldier. He asked the soldier, "Why do you defend these thieves? Mubarak is a thief, Gamal is a thief, and your director is a thief." The higher ups in security moved in and removed the soldier and seemed to allow the protester space. This small victory for the protester ended the incident.

Overall, the CSF were calm and visibly on orders not to start trouble. They just stood there in the sun in their helmets with their bamboo sticks watching almost half-bored and unaware of what exactly they were doing. Naturally, they know it was about crowd-control but it was not clear they were even clued into why this crowd needed encircled. Perhaps, they were acting.

Away from the center of the demo, I saw different things. As I stood off to the side, one Cairo U student asked another, "What is this noise all about?" The other one said, "They don't want Hosni." In a shocked voice, the first one responded, "All my Goodness!" (ya Khabir Abeyod). It was when I was off to the side that a lot of the plain-clothes security types were respectfully moving the gathered onlookers further away from the demo's epicenter. They were saying "Ya Basha, yella. Itfadilu" as they shooed us away. It was pretty pointless though as we were out of earshot of the slogans anyways. My sense was that most of the onlookers were looking out of curiosity rather than sympathy.

I returned to the front where I noticed that three students came out of the main gate and tried to join. The CSF tried to intimidate them until the protesters started yelling "Come Come Come". The security relaxed and one of the three joined in the encircled pillar.

As the demo took place at the main gate, the road is essentially a T-shape. The roads were lined with security trucks of back-up. I am guessing that there were well over 2500 soldiers in addition to all the plain-clothes people running around organizing onlookers, taking names, and photos of individual demonstrators. As noted, traffic moved in its normal slow pace given the time of day.

Around 215pm, the foreign journalists were gone and it did not look as if there would be any other developments.

To view some pictures I took, go to this site. will continue to follow the developments and check with the organizers to see if any injuries or scuffles broke out. But, as noted, it was well-organized and well-disciplined even if under-attended.

On the taxi ride home, the cabbie was asking me about the protest. He thought the idea of protesting was pointless (Mafish faada yanni). I asked him if Gamal would take power, and he got more serious. He said, "Of course not...this is a republic, not a monarchy." My feeling was that something has to give for there to be a popular, public rejection of that if the regime is going to take real note.