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Sunday, 26 September 2021

April 6 anniversary turns violent as Cairo rallies meet police teargas

Historic 6 April 2008 strike commemorated with peaceful anti-government protests, which were met with teargas by police at the High Court in Cairo; clashes continue into the night

Hazel Haddon, Saturday 6 Apr 2013
A protester outside the High Court (Photo: Dan Tookey)

On Saturday, the April 6 Youth Movement, a leading force behind the 2011 revolution and a powerful actor on the political scene since, commemorated the fifth anniversary of a historic strike in the city of Mahalla with anti-government protests in Cairo and a number of other Egyptian governorates.

The initially peaceful situation in Cairo deteriorated when security forces inside the High Court building fired teargas volleys at the crowds gathered outside.

At the time of publication, clashes between protesters and police were ongoing.

The April 6 Youth Movement, which was founded in 2008 to support striking textile workers in the Delta industrial centre of Mahalla, had announced earlier in the week that it would celebrate the anniversary with protests against the government of Mohamed Morsi, who members argued had failed to deliver on the promises of the revolution.

"We supported President Morsi when he ran for presidency. Now, after he issued his constitutional declaration, rammed through a new constitution and failed to meet the goals of the revolution we have joined the ranks of the opposition," said Ahmed Maher, co-founder of the April 6 Youth Movement.

Particular anger was focused on the interior ministry, which has been a repeated target of April 6's anger in recent weeks.

Other opposition parties, including the Constitution Party, the Strong Egypt Party, Revolutionary Socialists and the Free Egyptians Party, joined in the call for anti-government protests, and banners of their parties were evident on Saturday at the marches.

Four main marches took place in Cairo, starting in the districts of Sayyeda Zeinab, Shubra, Mohandeseen and Imbaba. Numbers were low, with turnouts reaching around a thousand at their highest. All four marches headed for the office of embattled Prosecutor-General Talaat Abdullah. Abdullah, who was appointed by President Morsi, has come under fire from many opposition figures in recent weeks after a wave of pre-trial detentions of protesters and arrests of well-known activists and media figures.

Anger at those perceived as supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood was visible, as a Qatari flag was burned at the Mohandeseen rally, and an Al Jazeera television channel van was greeted with hostility at the march from Shubra.

Despite the anger, a celebratory and peaceful atmosphere seemed to dominate at the Cairo rallies as the protesters made their way to the High Court in downtown Cairo. Ahram Online's correspondent Salma Shukrallah reported that residents in the upscale district of Mohandeseen cheered and waved flags from their balconies as protesters went past.

Marches passed other key hotspots, such as the Maspero state television and radio building in central Cairo without incident.

However, at night, as the rallies descended on the High Court where the prosecutor-general's office is located, familiar scenes emerged.

Teargas was fired from inside the court building at the loud but peaceful rallies gathered outside, who were chanting against the Brotherhood and demanding the resignation of the prosecutor-general. As the night wore on, security forces continued to fire intense teargas volleys at protesters, who rallied in nearby streets and continued to press towards the High Court.

The April 6 Youth Movement issued a statement late on Saturday night condemning the country's security forces’ firing of teargas.

“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 Egyptian regime.

Official ministry of health figures put the number of injured at 10pm at eight, although the number looks set to rise as intermittent clashes between a few hundred protesters and security sources continue.

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