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Heavy security presence in Cairo prevents demonstrations on strike anniversary
Heavy security presence in Cairo prevents demonstrations on strike anniversary
A planned nationwide strike and series of demonstrations by pro-democracy activists in Cairo fizzled Monday in the face of a massive security presence and widespread apathy.
Monday, April 6,2009 06:07
AP

A planned nationwide strike and series of demonstrations by pro-democracy activists in Cairo fizzled Monday in the face of a massive security presence and widespread apathy.


Efforts to replicate a last year’s strike in solidarity with Egyptian textile workers failed as most people in the busy, traffic-choked capital appeared to be going about their usual business.


Hundreds of riot police were stationed in downtown squares and around universities to prevent would-be demonstrators from taking to the streets.


Approximately a hundred activists gathered at the journalists’ association headquarters and chanted anti-government slogans on the steps in front of hundreds of helmeted and black-clad riot police.


Hundreds of students also demonstrated on university campuses in Cairo and the southern city of Assiut.


Parliamentarians from the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group, the largest opposition bloc with a fifth of parliament’s seats, staged a walk out in solidarity with the strike call.


In the run up to the event, police arrested dozens of people around the country as a preventive measure, including both left-wing activists, students and members of the Brotherhood.


A security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said 47 people have been arrested so far.


Last year, a similar strike appeared to succeed as many people stayed home and kept their children out of school for fear of violence. In the gritty, northern industrial town of Mahalla, police clashed for two days with townspeople protesting rising prices, resulting in three deaths.


Following that episode, the movement’s activists attempted to channel popular discontent over lack of democracy, corruption and human rights abuses through protests organized by mobile phone messages and the social networking site Facebook.


The group is also calling for economic reforms, including higher wages for people on government salaries and price control. Egypt’s economy has suffered from high inflation, though the rate has been declining from last year’s levels of more than 20 percent.


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