On Friday, May 4, thousands of demonstrators descended on the Cario neighborhood of Abbaseya to march on the Ministry of Defense to protest the Wednesday, May 2 killings of Salafist demonstrators conducting sit-ins outside the military compound there to protest the electoral ban on cleric Hazem Abou Ismail.
Thousands of demonstrators, a large number of whom carried sheets of corrugated metal as shields from water cannons (and, presumably, birdshot or tear gas canisters)*, advanced on the MoD where they were met by a heavy army presence, reinforced by military police and armed residents of the district. ENN showed security forces’ reinforcements arriving via infantry-fighting vehicles.
*These metal sheets are also sometimes used as “mic checks” by demonstrators to rally the crowds.
An unhappy coincidence, as the ancien regime was out in force at Abbasseya as protestors advanced on the Ministry.
Yes, there are Abassiya locals/thugs with revolvers & rocks but personally saw others host protesters and wave to them. Can’t stigmatize.
— Mosa’ab Elshamy (@mosaaberizing) May 4, 2012
One video reports seems to show the military trucking in armed civilians to beat back protestors.
Such men (often described as “paid thugs“) are believed to have carried out attacks against the Salafist demonstrators earlier in the week that left over a dozen dead. State media consistently describes the attackers as “unidentified assailants,” suggesting SCAF is clueless as to the attackers motives and identities.
This is a bit hard to swallow considering that the Interior Ministry has reportedly arrested armed men heading towards the demonstrations and both Abdel-Rahman Hussein and Sharif Kouddous observed the close liaising between security forces and area residents during the events of May 4.
I escaped from detention after several minutes they beating me, am safe now and thanks to God I have no injuries. Thanks for whoever called.
— Sabry â˜ Ø®aled (@sabrykhaled) May 4, 2012
Dr. Sabry Khaled reported that “Army forces attacked the protesters with the help of the military police ‘the red cap officers’, some plain clothed troops and thugs.” He also noted that “army forces raided into the hospitals and detained all the injured people.” Arrests were also made of some nearby mosque attendees.
Abdel-Rahman Hussein explained how the areas protesters entered proven inimical to their march: “it’s a perpetual death trap for protesters. There are no safe exits, and there are many people there that are generally annoyed by your presence, and are willing to let you know about it.”
This was the last tweet sent out from Mohamed Hazem, alias “CVirus,” now believed to be in detention. Photographer Mostafa Sheshtawya wrote on Facebook that Hazem, a GUC student, “was arrested earlier this evening from the ministry of defense clashes. Hazem was injured in his leg and was taken into custody by military police from Ain Shams Hospital”.
Individuals have been noted on social media, both male and female activists, as having been placed under arrest (the National Council on Women notably declined to defend the actions of the women who were arrested, though the government says it will release them).
The security forces arrested and detained journalists all day. A partial list of all those detained and assaulted at Abbaseya is available here. Mohammed Raafat of Masrawy.com was severely injured by “armed thugs” who beat him while he was taking photographs.
There’s no problem to kill 1 milion rude egyptians to save a country that has 90 milion poeple.
— Dr. Okasha (@TawfikOkasha_en) May 4, 2012
“Egypt’s Glenn Beck” weighs in with his usual … flair … for controversy.
The minor Islamist party Wasat blames Salafist clerics for trying to incite “jihad” against SCAF. Field Marshal Tantawi made a show of touring military hospitals following his high-profile attendance at the funeral of the soldier killed on Friday; a military spokesperson told the AFP that the soldier’s “death at the hands of protesters represents a clear attack on the army.”
According to other Twitter users, last night protestors were still trying to march on this area even though security forces cordon was expanded.
As of this writing the curfew is still in effect. The Muslim Brotherhood (which, according to Al-Hayat, was unsupportive of the initial demonstrations, as were Al Nour and Gamaat Islamiya) has since expressed solidarity with the demonstrators. SCAF is reportedly refusing to back down over releasing protestors ahead of their mandatory 15-day detentions in response to the soldier’s death. Closed-door military courts are already convening to sentence detainees, and several presidential candidates have suspended their campaigns in protest against the violence (of both May 2 and May 4).