The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Account of last night's demo crackdown

Matthew Carrington was at the judges' demo that was squashed last night -- he sent in this account of what he saw:
I stumbled on this demo. It’s the first one I’ve been to in a while now. And what struck me immediately about it was the immense disparity—the farcical dis-proportionality—between the numbers of protestors and the security forces ranged against them.

At 7.30 I counted about 70 protestors on the steps of the Journalist’s Syndicate. Not a threatening looking bunch: middle aged mostly, and many middle heavy as well. Dressed casually but tidily—as though they had come here from desk jobs. Half a dozen women and a few journos.

In front of them was a line of riot police three deep and about 52 wide. Lined up against the Judges Club building across the street there were another 200 or so, and then blocking the street in direction of Ramsis there were two more thick lines of them. In the direction of the Talat Harb at least two more wide, thick lines of riot police blocking the street side to side. And this is Abdel Khaliq Sarwat, a wide street.

Several of these lines of riot police—the usual slightly sad crowd of underfed boys in badly fitting gear—was backed up the plain-clothes thugs. The grinning, grain-fed muscle brought in to beat people, smash cameras and generally give a little edge to the otherwise lackluster efforts of the recruits.

Beyond this cordon, on Champollion Street, there were more thugs. Drawn up in loose groups of 25 they lounged in the dark, sitting on cars and joking. Waiting for a chance to go five on one with some protestor.

Going in at around 7.00, I met groups of them coming out. Knots of them dragging away some young Kefaya guys from the Judges’ Club. Dazed, they were shoved into a blue plated minivan that pushed its way up the street through the Wednesday crowds around the Odeon Cinema. They left behind a torn sign supporting the judges’ and a bright yellow Kefaya banner.

I left around 9.30, having had my fill of slogans and tubby, unpleasant men in funny hats and gold braid. A few more people had been picked off by the packs of thugs who roamed between the lines of the cordon waiting for someone to stray from the safety of the crowd, but the half-expected assault ala May 25, never happened.

The only laugh in the evening came when someone down front started yelling about the contrast between the security around the Syndicate and in the Sinai. It seemed pretty similar to me, however, and it minded me of a large, badly coordinated man trying to swat a mosquito with a cricket bat

I sat for a while next to a lawyer friend of mine, looking over at the darkened Judge’s Club. There was an open window there and we could see the red glow from a video camera—State Security getting yet more footage of people whom they seem to fear.

After a while he shrugged.

“We’re used to it. I’m just very disappointed.”
For more details, here's a press release from the human rights groups.

There's another demo planned for today at noon in front of the General Prosecutor's office to call for the release of those arrested in the recent protests.

Update: More testimonies at The Skeptic.