Last Friday’s large-scale protests in peripheral cities saw marginal media coverage, but demonstrators are now taking to the streets of Cairo.
Rabat – With increasing frustration over deteriorating living standards and a program of forced mass demolitions, protesters in Egypt are preparing to challenge their government with another day of concerted demonstrations.
Egyptian activist Mohammed Ali called for a second “Friday of Rage” after a week of police violence followed large-scale protests last Friday.
Beginning in September the Egyptian government proceeded with its program of demolishing houses it considers were constructed illegally. The program has seen Egyptians evicted from their homes, watching as government bulldozers tore down their family residences and left them homeless.
The demolitions have sparked outrage and compounded with growing issues of declining living standards, increasing prices for basic necessities, and rising poverty. Protests on September 25 spread across Egypt and video footage of large demonstrations in small towns and peripheral cities led to hundreds of thousands of online remarks.
Protests in Cairo
Egyptian authorities managed to hide the scale of the September 25 protests and many national and international media used government statements to paint them as minor. “Egyptian police disperse rare, small protests; 10 arrested” headlined an Associated Press piece which directly quoted an Egyptian official, even as the article admitted the flurry of online evidence of large scale protests.
Reports used the absence of protests in Egypt’s major urban centers to diminish the event. Today frustrated Egyptians aim to change that following a new call to action by Mohammed Ali from his self-imposed exile in Spain. His call quickly spread online using the Arabic hashtag “the second Friday of anger.” Protesters echoed his call to march on Egypt’s iconic Tahrir Square in central Cairo.
The call to action featured video footage of police in Luxor firing into a crowd who had gathered to mourn the death of nursing assistant Awais Al-Rawi.
Police shot Al-Rawi to death after he defended his father from police abuse on Wednesday. Al-Rawi’s death and the footage of police shooting live ammunition at the mourning crowd has further galvanized public resentment.
The government has strategically prepared its response to the mounting anger in Egypt’s streets. Security services arrested hundreds this week and the military government of Abdel Fatah El-Sisi is arranging counter-protests.
The Egyptian National Security Agency, a subset of the Interior Ministry, sent communications to ministers to have their employees counter protest. The communications directed public employees to gather in front of their offices where buses would pick them up, according to news outlet Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.
The orchestrated pro-government protests are mandatory for people working in the public sector. People who refuse face losing their job and prosecution for being part of a “banned group,” a significant charge in El-Sisi’s Egypt.
As protesters take to the streets of Egypt and public employees are transported to pro-regime demonstrations, Al-Rawi’s death is set for investigation by human rights lawyer Hafez Abu Saada. He is a member of the Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights and has announced the public prosecution of the officers involved, likely in an effort to defuse protests.