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Friday, 13 December 2019

The April 6 five-year anniversary: How peaceful protests turned violent

Ahram Online provided blow-by-blow coverage on Saturday of the protests held on the 5th anniversary of April 6 youth movement - as a day of peaceful rallies ended with clashes between protesters and security forces at High Court

Salma Shukrallah, Osman El-Sharnoubi, Sherif Tarek, Randa Ali, Dahlia Ferrer, Ali Nada, Hazel Haddon, Saturday 6 Apr 2013
Clashes into the night at High Court (Photo: Dan Tookey)
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Views: 11000

22:00 Ongoing clashes continue at the High Court between a few hundred protesters and the security forces, who have been firing intense volleys of teargas. The total injury toll from the ministry of health is eight, although given the eyewitness accounts that seems like a dramatic underestimate.

Ahram Online's live updates are closing now, but stay tuned for a wrap-up article that will be published soon.


21:30 The April 6 Youth Movement issued a statement condemning the security forces’ firing of teargas, as clashes continue near the High Court.

“The regime’s ministry of interior respond to chants with teargas and birdshot,” read the statement published on the movement’s official Facebook page.

The movement further accused the ministry of interior of “prostituting for” every regime.

21:15 Security forces continue to fire teargas to chase away protesters who keep coming back to the High Court, reports Sherif Tarek.

“The people want to bring down the regime,” protesters loudly chanting in spite of many severely coughing from the excessive teargas.

21:05 According to Ahram Online’s Sherif Tarek who is at the scene, dozens of ambulances have been deployed in Ramses Street, where the High Court is located. Numbers of injured has not been released by the ministry of health.

21:00 Protesters have set tyres on fire near the High Court to counter the effects of teargas fired by security forces. According to Ahram’s Arabic website, a number of protesters were throwing Molotov cocktails at the building, but were later stopped by dozens of others.

20:50 While the scene is become more tense in Cairo, Ahram Arabic reports that the city of Mahalla, where the labour strikes happened five years ago, is still marking the historic date with a public conference attended by several figures such as leading labor activist Kamal Abou Eita and father of Ahmed Mabrouk, one of those slain in the events of April 6 2008.

20:45 Activist Rami Ghanem told Ahram Online’s Salma Shukrallah that he had seen people in civilian clothes arresting protesters on Tawfiqia Street near the High Court.

20:40 A Turkish student in her 20s who was present at the protest was badly injured after being hit in the head when security forces fired teargas from inside the building, reported Ahram Online’s Salma Shukrallah.

According to Shukrallah, the woman, who was transported to a hospital nearby, is suffering from excessive bleeding and is currently undergoing scans. Her doctor said the wound was from a teargas canister.

20:30 Police have been firing teargas at protesters at the intersection of Talaat Harb Street with 26 July Street near the High Court, according to Ahram Online's Osman El-Sharnoubi. As a result of the teargas effect, protesters for the time being are slowly moving away from the building while chanting "the people want the fall of the regime." Clashes remain intermittent.

20:15 Armoured police vehicles are now lining up to separate protesters from the High Court building, according to El-Sharnoubi, who says that there are no clashes ongoing but the situation is combustible. Many of the demonstrators are gathering in the nearby 26 July and Talaat Harb streets. Some demonstrators said that teargas has been fired from police vehicles.

20:10 Reporters at the scene from Ahram’s Arabic website confirmed that security forces have been firing intense teargas volleys from inside the High Court at the 6 April protesters.

20:00 There is a pungent smell of teargas in Talaat Harb Street, a kilometre away from the prosecutor-general’s office, reports Ahram Online's Osman El-Sharnoubi, who also said shops in the street are shutting down. Pedestrians are covering their mouths and noses as a result of the teargas.

19:40 Huge volleys of teargas were fired from inside the High Court where the prosecutor-general's office is located, apparently after protesters started banging on the doors of the building and firing fireworks, according to Ahram's Osman El-Sharnoubi. Osman said he could not see any police at the front of the building, and could not see who had fired the teargas.

Protesters scattered after the volleys were fired.

19:30 Hundreds of protesters were attacked by unknown assailants in front of Daqahlia security directorate, north east of Cairo, leaving several injured. According to Ahram’s Arabic website, the assailants used sticks and bladed weapons against protesters from April 6 and the Constitution Party.


19:15 The march that originated in Mohandeseen has reached the prosecutor-general’s office in downtown Cairo.

Marchers carried balloons and there was a celebratory atmosphere on the fifth anniversary of the inception of the April 6 Youth Movement, according to Ahram Online’s Salma Shukrallah, who says there are several thousand protesters gathered. “The interior ministry are thugs,” chant some of the demonstrators, among other slogans.

Salma describes the scene: “The main demand is the sacking of the prosecutor-general, who was appointed by the president. The protesters are also demanding the immediate release of detained activists, some of whom are from the April 6 movement.”

“The sound of drumbeats is very loud and protesters are waving huge flags on which the logo of the group is emblazoned. They are also holding many banners and placards. Protesters are from different ages and the women’s turnout is quite high.”

19:10 Emad Kamal, a coordinator with April 6, told Ahram Online’s Osman El-Sharnoubi that the movement hasn’t yet decided on their plan now that they’ve reached the prosecutor-general’s office.

“There is a good chance a sit-in will take place,” he said.

19:00 The protesters outside prosecutor-general Talaat Abdullah’s office are calling him a “sheep” and lighting firecrackers, reports Osman El-Sharnoubi.

A banner with the phrase “leave” is being hung on the large metal doors of the building.

“The crowds are energetic, despite the long walk,” says Osman.

18:20 According to Ahram Online’s Osman El-Sharnoubi, the march from Shubra is now approaching Ramses Street where the prosecutor-general’s office is located. The marchers are in the thousands.

17:45 The march from Mohandeseen has reached the 15 May Bridge on its way to the prosecutor-general’s office, according to Ahram Online's Salma Shukrallah.

Salma Niazy, a protester wearing the niqab who is a Constitution Party member, said she has been taking part in the opposition protests since the "virginity test scandal" in 2011, when young women accused military personnel of forcing them to undergo "virginity tests" while detained.

"I voted for [Abdel-Moneim] Aboul-Fotouh in the first round of the presidential elections, and boycotted the second," she told Ahram Online. "It was obvious that the Muslim Brotherhood had a deal with the military to give them a safe exit following the transitional period [during which the military was in charge and accused of many abuses]."

She said that Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's last prime minister, who was the other candidate in the final round of the elections, is no different from Morsi. "It’s only that the military's deal with the latter would be less obvious," she said.

17:40 According to Ahram Online’s Osman El-Sharnoubi, a van belonging to Al-Jazeera news channel, which has been accused of biased coverage in favour of the Muslim Brotherhood, was attacked by protesters and left the march.

17:30 Meanwhile, April 6 Democratic Front have arrived in the textile city of Mahalla, home to the 2008 strike that gave the movement its name.

“Members of the front who came from several governorates are now preparing a march through the streets of Mahalla to Al-Shona Square,” said Ahmed Bassiouni, head of the group’s media committee. Al-Shona Square was at the centre of the 2008 strike action against Mubarak.

17:25 Scuffles broke out between a shop owner who is a supporter of President Mohamed Morsi and protesters in the march that kicked off from Sayyeda Zeinab.

The march continued with protesters angrily chanting against the Muslim Brotherhood. 

17:15 Ahram Online's Salma Shukrallah reports that the march from Mohandeseen now numbers in the thousands.

17:00 According to Strong Egypt Party member Amr Kilani, his party is participating in the Shubra march to demand the dismissal of current prosecutor-general Talaat Abdullah, but they are not in favour of the reinstatement of Mubarak era prosecutor-general Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud.

“A prosecutor-general should be chosen from one of three nominated by the supreme judicial council,” Kilani told Ahram Online’s Osman El-Sharnoubi.

According to Kilani, the party is also demanding the dismissal of Prime Minister Hisham Qandil’s cabinet and the restructuring of the interior ministry. 

16:55 Salma Shukrallah reports that the march in Mohandeseen is being greeted by residents waving Egyptian flags and cheering from their balconies. One group of people waved a Saudi Arabian flag from their balcony in support.  

16:50 Escorted by his security guards, Prosecutor-General Talaat Abdullah has left his office, which is the meeting point of the moving marches, according to Ahram's Arabic website.

His office has been the site of repeated protests over the last few weeks and months, as actions taken by state prosecutors against activists and media personalities have come under heavy criticism from the opposition.

16:45 Ahram Online’s Simon Hanna spoke to co-founder of the April 6 Youth Movement Ahmed Maher.

“The demands of April 6 in 2008 were for bread, freedom and social justice, the same as today,” said Maher adding that the group is also demanding the downfall of the regime.

16:40  “I am here to state that the revolution must be completed, and the the regime must be changed, just like we did before, as nothing has been achieved in terms of the revolution’s goals of social justice, freedom and dignity,” Wael Sarag, a sales manager taking part in the Shubra march to the prosecutor-general’s office told Ahram Online's Osman El-Sharnoubi.

16:30 Loay Abdel-Hamid, an April 6 Youth Movement coordinator, told Ahram Online's Salma Shukrallah that the group’s marches set off from different districts as planned, including the working-class Imbaba and middle-class Mohandeseen, and willl converge on the prosecutor-general's office in downtown Cairo, where the group will celebrate the fifth anniversary of the group's inception.

The group chose that destination because, according to Abdel-Hamid, removing the president-appointed prosecutor-general is the most important demand. "We want a constitutionally-appointed prosecutor-general," he said.

"We have a lot of demands and they are increasing," Abdel-Hamid said. "We are against raised prices, unemployment, and the wrong decisions made by the government and president."

The Mostafa Mahmoud protest has already started to march, according to Shukrallah, who said the numbers are in the hundreds. Protesters are chanting “no to Qatar and to the Brotherhood,” are “the people want the fall of the regime.” 

16:15 In the upmarket district of Mohandeseen, only a few dozen protesters have gathered in Mostafa Mahmoud Square, but numbers are starting to increase, according to Ahram Online's Salma Shukrallah.

Protesters are holding flags with the April 6 logo on it, as well as Egyptian flags. One banner shows a picture of President Morsi's face merged with that of Mubarak. 

Some of the protesters are chanting, "the revolutionaries are no thugs," as well as other chants supporting Gaber 'Jika' Salah, the slain activist from the April 6 Youth Movement who was killed during the Mohamed Mahmoud Street commemoration clashes.

One group of protesters burned a Qatari flag - a reference to the reportedly close relationship between the Gulf State and the Muslim Brotherhood's leadership. 


16:10 A march of hundreds has kicked off from Shubra Square in the Shubra district in northern Cairo, chanting against the Muslim Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie.

Ahram Online’s Osman El-Sharnoubi says that flags of the April 6 movement, the Constitution Party, the Ultras of the Strong Egypt Party, in addition to pictures of slain protesters, are fluttering over a mostly youthful crowd.  


“We supported him [Morsi]; now he threw our brothers in jail,” chanted the youth group who supported Morsi in the electoral runoffs against Mubarak regime stalwart Ahmed Shafiq last year, Ahram Arabic reported. 

16:05 The April 6 Democratic Movement march, which held the protests outside the presidential palace earlier this afternoon, will now leave Cairo and head for Mahalla, according to the group’s media spokesman Islam Hamam. Mahalla is around 100km north of the capital.

16:00 Back to the Nile Delta, where a march of hundreds has started from outside Mansoura University.

Protesters chanted “the people demand the fall of the regime” and “a blood and gas crisis, bravo what an achievement,” reported the Ahram Arabic website.

The march reached the Daqahliya security directorate headquarters, where more protesters joined in chanting “the ministry of interior are thugs.”

Protesters also threw fake blood at the directorate building.

15:50 The sheep motif is not a new one; many recent protests have featured mocking use of sheep imagery in reference to critics' view of the Muslim Brotherhood. 

April 6 members have held a number of memorable protests recently, including one on 29 March outside the interior minister's house, when hundreds of members held aloft women's underwear, describing the regime as a 'prostitute.' A number of members were injured and arrested when police broke up the protest.

15:45 Earlier on Saturday, dozens of members of the April 6 Democratic Front, one of the splinter groups of the April 6 movement, staged a protest in the Smouha district of Alexandria, surrounding the local security directorate.

The protesters held up a toy dog and toy lamb in cages, with a sign reading "no comment, the clever one will get it," reports the Ahram Arabic website.
Selim El-Hawary, coordinator of the movement, said the aim of the protest is to send a "clear message" to the interior ministry that they realise the ministry's policy remains as it was under the toppled Mubarak regime.

"The January 25 revolution hasn't changed many sectors, including the interior ministry," he told Ahram. "Should the status-quo remain, the revolution will continue and demolish whatever contradicts with its principles."

15:40  Meanwhile, a number of April 6 members from the Nile Delta governorate of Sharqiya headed to Cairo earlier on Saturday morning to join the protests scheduled to take place in the capital.

Banners calling on people to join the protests, reminding the citizens of the rise in prices, lack of electricity and the rise in poverty were hung on the train that left for Cairo.

“Your silence is killing us,” read one of the banners on the train.

Ahmed Gamal, media coordinator of the group in Sharqiya, stressed that today’s protesters are determined to stay peaceful.

15:30 Protests have also been kicking off outside of Cairo. A number of students from the April 6 Youth Movement at Southern Valley University in Upper Egypt’s Qena Governorate gathered early on Saturday to mark the fifth anniversary of the movement and to demand the “overthrow” of the Muslim Brotherhood, holding them responsible for the “huge rise in prices” and the lack of security, reports the Ahram Arabic website. They also demanded the dismissal of the prosecutor-general, and condemned President Mohamed Morsi’s “silencing” of the opposition.

“President Mohamed Morsi is not paying attention to the people’s demand for the sacking of the prosecutor-general,” April 6 member Mohamed Taher told Ahram.

15:20  Ahead of the main protests, scheduled for 4pm, around 30 members of the 6 April group protested outside the Egyptian Stock Exchange in downtown Cairo this morning, reported Ahram’s Arabic website. They shouted anti-Morsi slogans.

There were also early protests outside the presidential palace (also known as the Itihadiya palace) on Saturday. Dozens of members of the 6 April Democratic Front, a splinter group of the April 6 movement, formed human chains for a brief period on Saturday afternoon.


15:15  On Thursday, the April 6 Youth Group held a press conference with other groups, including the Constitution Party, the Alliance of the Revolutionary Forces, and the Free Egyptians Party, saying that it would mark the fifth anniversary of its founding by mass rallies against President Mohamed Morsi's government.

The protests will have four demands: the release of detained activists, removal of the country's prosecutor-general, dignity for citizens, and downfall of the regime.

Marches will take place at 4pm, leaving from Mostafa Mahmoud Square in the Mohandeseen district, Dawaran Shubra Square in the Shubra district, central Cairo's Sayyeda Zeinab Mosque, and Giza's working class district of Imbaba. The destination is likely to be Tahrir Square or the nearby High Court.

A number of protests are also set to take place in several governorates, such as the coastal city of Alexandria, Upper Egypt’s Assiut, and Nile Delta’s Sharqiya, to mark the anniversary of the founding of the April 6 movement.

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