Police fired tear gas into the Beni Suef governorate headquarters on Sunday to drive out 200 laid-off temporary-contract teachers who had stormed the building in protest at their treatment.
Top government officials fled the building through back doors to escape the tear gas, and police soldiers were forced to break all the main windows and front doors to release gas trapped in the lobby.
News reports and eyewitnesses confirmed that ambulances rushed to the area to evacuate protesters who suffered injuries during the violent clashes.
One report, which circulated on the April 6 Movement’s Facebook page, carried the picture of a person who had apparently collapsed on the street outside the building, and had been covered with a rally sign.
It was claimed this person, a female protester, had been killed in the clashes.
However, Ahram Online reporters learned that although the teacher’s family had initially believed her dead, medics at the Beni Suef General Hospital had found her alive, and were attempting to stabilise her condition.
The laid-off temporary-teachers have been locked in a yearlong labour dispute with the Upper Egypt governorate.
Last year, the governorate sacked the teachers on the pretext they held a bachelor’s degree from the faculty of arts, not a proper teachers college, and had not completed the post-graduate teaching qualification required for a permanent position.
The laid-off teachers had been staging a sit-in at a public park near the offices hoping to send a message to the governorate to rehire them.
Meanwhile, the Governor of Beni Suef, Maher Bebers, told the media that he was personally sympathetic to the teachers’ demands and had sent an official request to the Ministry of Finance for funds to rehire the teachers as permanent employees. However, Bebers added that his office had so far not allocated money for the teachers.
Earlier in the day, police had cordoned off the governorate offices to secure it against the teachers who were holding a peaceful protest, and had fired tear gas at the crowd to disperse them.
However, minutes later, the protesters regrouped and returned to enter the building to demand the governor’s resignation.
Beni Suef has been the site of a growing number of labour disputes since the January 25 Revolution.
Last month, teachers in the governorate took part in a weeklong national strike to demand higher wages and permanent positions for hundreds of thousands of temporary and per diem teachers.
Meanwhile, Beni Suef doctors participated in two countrywide strikes by physicians in May and September.
Hundreds of former cement workers who claim ousted president Hosni Mubarak forced them to accept early retirement packages in deals to privatise the governorate’s cement industry have also been protesting in recent months to demand the renationalisation of their factories and the return of their jobs.