Hundreds of the homeless protesters, who have been staging a sit-in before the state TV building in Maspero for days, got more infuriated after one of them drowned in the River Nile Saturday morning, an incident that led the demonstrators to block traffic for several hours.
The man, reportedly a father of a young girl and husband to a pregnant wife, is said to have tripped and fell into the water while he was washing his shirt. The reason he resorted to the river water is that protesters were prevented from using nearby bathrooms, thanks to orders giving by the authorities. An emergency force reportedly tried to save his life, but to no avail.
In the wake of the incident, the protesters decided to block the street and insisted they would continue to do so until the government fulfilled their demands; providing them “humane” dwellings in the immediate future. Authorities and mediators, however, persuaded them at noon to keep their sit-in on the sidewalks in order not to disturb traffic. The protesters vowed to obstruct the street again unless a swift solution is introduced within the next few hours.
“We have been waiting for a long time and nothing happened, even though the government has received a lot of donations allocated for us from artists and businessmen,” one of the protesters told Ahram Online. “It’s not the first time for us to close the street but this time the blockage lasted longer because of anger over the man who drowned.”
The police were patient with the protesters as violence seemed to be a measure of last resort. Deployed in front of Ramses Hilton Mall, central security personnel wearing helmets and holding batons looked prepared to disperse the crowd by force, but the street was eventually opened without disturbance, although some of the protesters insisted on keeping the road blocked.
The down-and-out protesters used to be tenants in El-Nahda and El-Salam cities. They are understood to have been kicked out by the landlords after the revolution, and over 1,300 families have been homeless ever since. The government has provided them a temporary camp till they grant them residence but obviously they ran out of patience.
“Six months have elapsed [Prime Minister Essam] Sharaf took office, we have the right to stage a sit in,” read a banner hung on top of one of the tents which had been set up by the demonstrators.