Egypt's protesters unimpressed by PM speech, sit-ins to stay

Ahram Online and wires, Sunday 10 Jul 2011

The coalition of Revolutionary Youth and April 6 movement said that Prime minister Essam Sharaf's response fall well short of their demands, and that sit-ins across the country will go on

Tahrir square
(Photo by Mai Shaheen)

Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, in an address on state television on Saturday, said he had ordered the interior minister to issue a decree ending service for all police officers accused in cases of killing protesters.

Sharaf said he had also urged the public prosecutor to put together a team to speed up investigations into cases of killing protesters, and said the public prosecutor had decided to appeal all acquittals that had been issued in such cases.

A thousand protesters gathered in the port city of Suez, blocking a main road to the Suez Canal and Tawfik port, after Sharaf's speech. The demonstrators protested against what they said was government lip service to their demands.

The demonstrators demanded the re-detention of police officers accused of killing protesters in Suez but released on bail last week. They threatened to block the entry of canal workers and seize a main building belonging to the Suez Canal Authority.

The April 6 Youth Movement said on Saturday that it would continue its sit-ins across the country until Sharaf's "words (turn) into tangible action," state news agency MENA reported.

The coalition of Revolutionary Youth said that what Sharaf offered does not meet their demands, and that sit-ins will continue until all their demands are met.

The number of protesters in Tahrir square sit-in increased dramatically after Sharaf's speech.

On Sunday morning, Tahrir Square protesters gathered around the Mogamma, the largest governmental administrative building in Egypt, chanting against the ruling military council. The protesters have completely blocked off the building’s colossal main entrance which faces the square. By 9:00am, government employs stood aside, watching in curiosity as some mouthed along, repeating the chants with the demonstrators.

The crowd, at first numbering no more than 30, began their occupation of the building’s entrance at around 7:00am. Many protesters were still asleep and many others awake in the roundabout’s central island were unsure of the gathering’s purpose.

Those assembled in front of the Mogamma did not claim to be members of any party or movement, insisting they were Egyptians tired of the ruling elite’s old tricks. Nothing had changed, they maintained, after 11 February, the day ousted president Hosni Mubarak stepped down; police brutality hasn’t subsided, they said, pointing to the events of 28 June when clashes erupted between Central Security Forces and protesters supporting the families of the martyrs. Following these events, human rights organisations accused the interior ministry of excessive use of force.

One by one, Egyptians and foreigners alike with business in the Mogamma, documents in hand, were turned away by protesters, some of whom were wearing badges identifying them as “square security” – members of popular committees in charge of securing checkpoints. Arguments broke out as some members of the public insisted on getting into the building to finish their paper work; in some cases, they had come from remote corners of Cairo. The arguments subsided as men and women escorted the disgruntled citizens away.

As more people came to the Mogamma gates seeking entry, onlookers and participants cheekily smiled, informing them that it was closed to all. The crowd had grown and the chanting had fervently begun focusing on the martyrs (“I can hear the mother of the martyr calling: I want my right and the rights of my children”) and the interim government (“farce, farce, farce, the gang is still ruling”). Soon some of the government employees joined the protesters and they too chided the ruling military council, demanding a civilian state.

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