Around a hundred protesters gathered at the Press Syndicate on Sunday at 6:00pm to march onto the Cabinet in opposition to the recently decreed anti-protest law introduced by the interim government of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf.
Unionists, workers and activists coalesced on the syndicate’s steps, chanting slogans against the prime minister and the supreme military council.
The marchers, gathering momentum and volume, weaved through the streets of downtown Cairo, passing through Tahrir Square -- the symbolic epicentre of the 25 January uprising -- and onto the Cabinet; by this point the protesters numbered around five hundred.
Kamal Abou Eita, head of the Independent Syndicate for Real Estate Tax Employees, who directed the protesters during the course of the march, addressed the Cabinet, chanting, “Oh ministers, strikes are what brought you here.”
When asked of the marcher’s demands Abou Eita stated: “Our demands are the cancellation of the law which illegalises protests and strikes; and we say to the Cabinet and the military council that the protests and the strikes were the boat you took to reach your current position and if they hadn’t happened, you wouldn’t be in this position. It is a shame that you burn the boats that brought you to this point.”
He went on to demand the rescinding of the law which deprives people of their basic rights and a response to the demands of the people, namely the dismantling of the remnants of the Mubarak regime. It is "those remnants that prove to us everyday that the revolution has not been fulfilled and that the old regime is still governing. This is our number one demand and if is realised a third of our strikes and sit-ins would be brought to an end.”
“If they really are the ministers of the revolution, they must stop trying to silence us and deny us of our rights.”
A protester in Tahrir Square asked another, “Didn’t Essam Sharaf come down to Tahrir and state that he drew his legitimacy from the people?”
Saud Omar, a trade unionist in the Suez Canal Authority, stated that “if Sharaf’s government today takes away our right to protest, sit-in and strike, I think that in the near future he will take from us our right to organise and all the other basic rights both civil and political.” A situation, he believes, would lead to a dictatorship worse than that of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
“It is a fascist law,” he stressed.
The trade unionist went on to say that he expected a number of ministers including Minister of Manpower and Immigration Ahmed Hassan El-Borei to submit their resignations. He also stated that the justice minister’s statement earlier today was a farce. Minister of Justice Ahmed El-Guindy’s announced that the anti-strike law doesn’t ban protests and strikes, “as long as [they do] not disrupt work, cause chaos and are held through legitimate channels.”
Omar asserted that in the end it was up to a company’s management to decided what did and did not disrupt work. “The management could say, as I stand and protest outside the work area, that these protesters are putting pressure on the workers and thus preventing production...[The minister] is either fooling us, fooling himself or the Egyptian people.”
He believes the protesters focused on the military council since the army has recently dispersed protesters and strikers with force, mentioning the army’s violent dispersion of sit-in demonstrators at Cairo University on 24 March.