An American friend of mine, currently living in Cairo, just sent out this missive about current activities here in the Egyptian capital. I also just returned from the French Embassy protest, witnessing around 1000 riot police surrounding around 300 French protestors, demanding the Egyptian government open the borders into Gaza and allow decency to return to the region:
I drove by the French embassy on my way downtown at 7AM. There seemed to be some hundreds of people sleeping in sleeping bags on a 4 or 5 metre footpath across the embassy’s wide frontate. There were perhaps one or two hundred riot police standing shoulder to shoulder facing them, motionless… none of them even slouching. I got to the small hotel where I do some reservations work for my wife’s favorite relative. The Gaza protest guests who had checked out yesterday or the day before were back in large numbers, having, surprise, surprise, surprise, been refused permission to cross into Gaza. Some large contingent of French participants was said to have gone to the French embassy to sit-down and protest the absence of a French government statement on the issue or something.
So that’s what I saw on the way to town and they were still there in some dozens at 4PM, the police maintaining their line of the morning and not encroaching on the territory of the thinning remnants. In the centre of the frontage they occupied, some half the people in front of the police line were gathered around a speaker standing at a slight elevation on the footpath with a megaphone of some sort. The riot police were starving them out through the day, perhaps. There were dozens and dozens of riot police passenger vehicles so perhaps 200-300 riot police, most of them inside their trucks sticking their heads out to look as the whole thing geared down. Some of the hotel guests talked of joining the French in the morning but surely they were turned away.
I doubt very much the Egyptian authorities will let them into Gaza. Or assemble anywhere again. It’s not like Canberra or Washington DC where their are large park areas where protestors are allowed to assemble. The protest at the embassy had little impact on traffic at &AM as there were few police trucks and the protestors were all prone sleeping. But at 4PM traffic was backed up to Independence Square (Midan Tahrir) and after observing this stuff for 3 years, though not previously of this scale, it’s usually a good guess that they’ll disperse any crowd that threatens to bring Midan Tahrir to gridlock. It’s just a big roundabout, not a place where any number of people can gather without bringing traffic to a halt.
Neither this morning nor evening did I see news crews or people being allowed to assemble anywhere in the area outside the cordon of police enclosing the protestors.
Just guessing, none of them will get to Gaza (where the main news lately has been about the construction of a partition wall along the Egyptian border to frustrate construction of the tunnels… which will now just be dug deeper).