Suez on the brink

Salma El-Wardani , Wednesday 6 Jul 2011

Suez protesters, joining a sit-in staged by martyrs' families, are gearing towards a "second revolution" on Persistence Friday, as the situation in city grows dangerously combustible

Photo: Mai Shaheen

Hundreds of protestors in Suez have taken to the streets on Wednesday 6 July, with others trying to storm into the police headquarters, demonstrating their rage and threatening another revolution after a Cairo court refused an appeal to reverse the release of police officers accused of killing protesters on 25 and 28 January.

“The revolution is on as long as the corruption and oppression is still there,” says Amina el-Sayed, a 31-year-old resident of El Arabeen district of Suez participating in the sit-in organized by families of the martyrs following the Suez criminal court's decision on Monday to release the police officers accused of killing ‎‎protesters on LE10,000 bail for each defendant. “The first martyr was from Suez and we shall prove his blood is not worthless."

Amina did not lose any of her family members during the revolution, but said she joined the sit-in, with her 3-month-old baby, from the start. “Every resident of El Arbaaeen is part of my family, and we shall stay here until we take revenge,” she says.

Young people belonging to different political movements, including 6th of April, popular committees, Hyde park movment, Egyptians who love Egypt, Gabha party youth and Al Adl party, hung up a large banner listing their demands, which included public trials for protestor killers, the ouster of the Suez attorney general, comprehensive care for the injured, compensation for the familes of the martyrs, restructuring of the ministry of interior, fair minimum wage and an urgent plan to provide youth with employment.

“These demands are not negotiatable and we shall stay here until everything is met. This was a revolution, and if they don’t know that yet we shall start it again,” says Islam Mesaddaq, a student at Suez university's faculty of commerce and a member of the Suez Youth Coalition.

Former ministers Anas El-Fiky and Youssef Boutros Ghali were found innocent of charges of profiteering and wasting public funds, while in a separate ruling by the same court today former minister of housing Ahmed El Maghrabi and Palm Hills CEO Yassin Mansour were also acquitted of a graft accusation over land acquisition. The public prosecutor has appealed the court order to acquit former ministers accused of illicit profiteering. The decision, however, has been rejected by the court.

"It's natural that the court rejected the appeal," says Hatem Radwan, one of the martyrs familes' lawyers, "Because the court decision cannot be appealed by a lower body".

"This was a political decision to contain people's anger, but in vain" he adds.

“Revolution means a radical change,” Mesaddaq explains, “Now that the corruption heads are released, while ordinary citizens are still being tortured and tried in military trials, then this revolution needs another revolution.”

At the grounds of the sit-in numerous graffiti signs can be seen, reading: 'The revolution is not over', 'Our son's blood is not worthless', 'Try the real criminals in military trials' and 'Down, down with Tantawi', along with the tags of the ULTRAS. Small stages are being set up in the district's main square, with people from different political movements giving speeches and chanting slogans.

A few kilometers away, the situation is even more tense. Hundreds of protestors are surrounding the police headquarters in an attempt to storm in. Army trucks and soldiers cordoned off the whole building, providing their full protection to the most loathed building in Suez.

Verbal and physical clashes erupted between the demonstrators and the armed forces. Explosions could be heard every now and then, and stones were thrown heavy-handedly at the police headquarters, with others trying to climb the walls in order to enter the building. Police personnel inside the building are throwing stones back at the protestors. No police officers dared appear on the streets, which have turned into a battlefield.

“Burn it and burn them all, those bastards!” cries a woman in hysterics, wearing black and carrying a large photo of Muhammad Mahrous, her only 18-year-old son, who was killed on 28 January at the hands of policemen, as she looks at a car belonging to one of the officers being smashed by the protestors.

The woman then turns to the army officer silently watching what’s happening, looks firmly into his eyes and says: “Did you lose your son? Any one you know did?” She then turns around and starts chanting with the other protestors: “Suez is not militaly ruled!” and “Down, down with Tantawi!”

The police headquarters attacked by the angered citizens saw all of its windows smashed, with rocks being thrown back and forth between citizens and security forces, as the army chose not to intervene in an attempt to remain neutral.

Not all the people at the police headquarters were demonstrators. Some pro-stability residents were also there to express their annoyance with the ongoing demonstrations.

“We can’t leave our houses, we cant work, we live in terror! Where are the officials? When is this nightmare going to end?,” angrily asks Mohamed Sharaf, a retired police officer, before quickly escaping back to his street when protestors surround him and begin attacking him verbally.

“This is somehow an aristocratic area so you can expect residents of this kind to be annoyed by demonstrators,‘’ says Ahmed Munchy, a member of the ULTRAS movment, “A few days ago I was at a demonstration here and I heard someone saying: Have mercy on the police, they’re part of the people. So I asked him: Can you pay LE 20,000 for your son to join the police academy? His expected answer was no. I told him then they're not part of the people.”

A large sign reading: 'Our date is July 8' was written on the wall of one of the buildings surrounding the police headquarters, with the ULTRAS tag on it.

“Friday is going to be Suez’s second revolution,” says Munchy, “It’s clear now that one wasn't enough.”

According to Munchy, on Friday, after the mass prayers, some 200 members of the Suez ULTRAS will join the sit-in along with numerous political movements. “This is going to be big,” he says.

Thursday is also expected to witness large demonstrations as thousands of workers from the Suez canal shipyard -- whose sit-in demanding better pay has already entered its 23rd day -- quarry workers and Einen ceramic factory workers are organizing mass marches from their factories to El Arbaeen square where the sit-in continues.

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