CAIRO (AFP) – Egyptian police were out in force on Monday to deal with a nationwide protest called by pro-democracy groups, with dozens of people arrested in the run-up to the planned “day of anger.”
“Police have been given the order to arrest anyone taking part in demonstrations. Extra security forces are deployed around sensitive sites in Cairo and around the country,” a security official told AFP.
Uniformed and plainclothes police were visible around Cairo and in Mahalla, a Nile Delta city where deadly riots erupted exactly a year ago during a similar protest against price hikes and low salaries.
Monday’s protest, dubbed “The Day of Anger in Egypt,” was called by the April 6 Movement, a group of young activists formed last year after a similar call for action on the same date.
The group is urging people to wear black and calling for protests including sit-ins at people’s places of work or study.
The activists have two main demands — setting the national minimum monthly wage at 1,200 Egyptian pounds (213 dollars) and electing a body to draft a new constitution, the organisers said.
The current minimum wage in Egypt is 167 Egyptian pounds (29 dollars).
This year’s April 6 protest, as was the case last year, gained support mainly through the online social networking site Facebook and SMS text messages.
Three people died and hundreds were detained during the 2008 strike.
Egypt has lived under emergency laws, forbidding most demonstrations, allowing for arbitrary arrest and for civilians to be tried by military courts, since the 1981 assassination of president Anwar Sadat.
Police arrested more than 30 people ahead of the latest protest, including three students on Sunday in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria for distributing posters calling for the day of action.
Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood has thrown its weight behind the protest, calling on all to “express their anger and objection to the policies of the regime which has squandered the country’s riches, neglected its national security and removed Egypt from its role as leader and pioneer.”
The Islamists have urged people to strike “using all peaceful channels and abiding by constitutional and legal restrictions while safeguarding public and private property from damage during these peaceful activities.”
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition group, is formally banned but fielded independent candidates in 2005 elections, winning a fifth of the seats in parliament.
The group’s parliamentary bloc has said it will boycott Monday’s parliament session as part of the protest.