Hundreds march on Egypt cabinet headquarters against emergency law

Sherif Tarek , Monday 19 Sep 2011

Protesters marched on Monday from Tahrir to the Egyptian cabinet building nearby to oppose emergency laws and to free civilians in military jails

Photo: Mai Shaheen

Hundreds protested against the re-activation of the emergency law on Monday ‎in a peaceful march that ended near the Egyptian parliament’s headquarters and saw demonstrators hit out at the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the Ministry of Interior. ‎

The protesters started to gather in Tahrir Square at around four o’clock in the afternoon, as planned. ‎One group rallied outside KFC restaurant while another congregated in front of the Mogamma, ‎Egypt’s largest administrative governmental building.‎

Repeating various slogans and holding high banners and placards, both groups soon started to march towards each other until they merged. The protesters spent several ‎minutes on the grassy central island, which was a restricted area for weeks, before heading to the parliament’s headquarters. ‎

The march created a traffic problem for around 30 minutes as the protesters partly ‎‎blocked Kasr El-Eini Street. The demonstrators tried not to completely halt traffic, and ‎some of them volunteered to keep vehicles moving by directing traffic.‎

The march was not obstructed by any security personnel on its way to its destination, ‎although some of the chants were quite provocative, including some against the interior ministry, the military council ‎and de-facto ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi. ‎

This was the second protest against the emergency law in Cairo less than 3 days. ‎

The first one was held last Friday, which was named the “No to Emergency Law Friday. ‎Around 500-1,000 protesters took part in the demonstration, which saw one of the smallest turnouts on a Friday protest in Tahrir since January 2011.‎

The controversial emergency law was re-activated following the 9 September protests ‎after demonstrators broke into one of the Israeli embassy’s offices in Cairo and others attacked Giza’s ‎Security Department and the Saudi Embassy as well. ‎

The Central Security Forces (CSF) used tear gas and electric batons to disperse the ‎crowds on that day, before SCAF announced the reactivation of the emergency law.

The ‎decision was met by widespread wrath from the revolutionaries. ‎

The emergency law was repeatedly denounced during the tenure of toppled president ‎Hosni Mubarak, as it gives the police unfettered authority. Many believe that numerous officers have misused the controversial law under the previous regime and now there ‎are increasing fears that history might repeat itself. ‎

During Monday’s march, demonstrators also spoke out against the military trials for ‎civilians and the law that bans strikes and sit-ins, two key issues that have stirred ‎up considerable controversy over the past few months. ‎

One of the frequently repeated chants was: “the military police is dirtier than the dogs ‎of the interior [policemen]”, referring to the reported excesses of military ‎police against civilians.‎

The protesters also called for the sacking of the minister of interior ‎Mansour El-Eissawy, and the release of detained political blogger and activist Mikael Nabil.

Nabil was arrested last spring for writing a blog entitled “The People and the Army Were Never One ‎Hand. He was tried before a military court and convicted of insulting the military ‎and disturbing public security.‎

The Coptic activist has been on a hunger strike since last month, in protest of his ‎conviction. Calls for his release have become quite common in mass protests in recent weeks.‎

The Revolutionary Socialists were the most notable among the political ‎groups taking part in the march. They held aloft eye-catching red flags that bore their ‎name, as Kamal Khalil, a prominent socialist, led the chants more than once ‎during the demonstration.

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