Confirmation that the 6 April Youth Movement’s “Day of Anger” was a day of nothing very much at all came when I found myself photographing my own face to see what a friend’s sunglasses looked like, through sheer boredom.
The day “started” at noon, when I went to the headquarters of the Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions and found its entrance surrounded by shifty-looking types in jeans and shirts, moustaches in suits clutching walkie-talkies, and not a protestor to be seen. As soon as I arrived this state security man, Hisham El-Iraqi, greeted me with a cheery saba7 el fol [good morning] before urging me to shove off in a extremely gentlemanly manner because, “there won’t be anything here today”.
I crossed the street and stood with the other five journos who had also been shooed away, about 50 metres distance from the Federation. It wasn’t long before El-Iraqi and pals descended on us in all their Police-sunglassed glory and the “persuasion” began again. “Between you and me, nobody will be allowed to protest today,” El-Iraqi said. “You mean just here or anywhere in Cairo?” I asked. “Anywhere,” he replied. “The only place where a demonstration will take place is the Journalists’ Syndicate”.
(Journalists’ Syndicate demonstrations are the baby playpen of the protest world – small, tightly controlled and penned in).
And he was right, although students at Ain Shams university apparently didn’t get this memo and violent confrontations took place between them and the police. Some of them were arrested.
As far as I’ve heard, this was the only violence which occurred today.
With nothing else to do I spent lots of time today pondering the police and state security today, in particular their dress-sense. One officer particularly caught my eye, decked-out as he was in a gangster-style pinstriped suit and long little finger nail. (What is the purport and purpose of this repulsive affectation? Explanations I have heard so far include Cocaine-cutting, earwax-removal, nostril exploration and letting the world know that the nail’s owner does not perform manual work. The last explanation is questionable since the long finger-nail is beloved of several carpenters I know).
Pimp suit’s every movement was shadowed by one of the widest men in the history of the universe, seen below in the black t-shirt. This is the first time I have seen a state security officer accompanied by a bodyguard. I wondered whether this was yet another affectation, like the finger nail.
The Muslim Brotherhood didn’t mobilise today, and the various security bodies present vastly outnumbered protestors. All the usual suspects were there; Kefaya, Socialists, April 6 Youth Movement members, Mohamed Abdel Qodous, El-Ghad. Ayman Nour’s arrival created something of a stir, as photographers stepped on each other’s heads to get a shot of the man.
Nour today unveiled El-Ghad’s “Cairo Declaration”. The Cairo Declaration is a list of ten demands which Hosny has a year to respond to, or else. If he doesn’t they’ll announce a[nother] national strike on April 6 2010. When Nour mentioned his Cairo Declaration at a seminar recently blogger/activist Karim El-Beheiry launched into a long rant which can be summarised with, “who the bloody hell does he think he is? Saad Zaghloul?” Fair play.
Also speaking at that particular seminar was Kefaya’s Abdel Halim Qandil, who suggested that the idea of reform under the current regime is nonsense.
Today’s events give credence to Qandil’s position, I think. “Only” about 34 people were arrested either today or preemptively in the past two days, and there wasn’t the same tension in the air as there was on April 6 last year when hundreds were detained. Today was stage-managed. This is a regime which doesn’t have the ability or maturity to deal with surprises, and April 2008 (and particularly Mahalla) was a surprise. April 6 2009 was not, and neither will 2010 be. Today it was business as usual herding the dissent into the Journalists’ Syndicate, the only place in Egypt where one can freely chant down with Hosny Mubarak into the ether.