Another protest today, outside the public prosecutor’s office. Ten or so activists from the Shebab 6 April group surrounded by twenty men in white bearing truncheons. The cordon would eventually mutate into fifty boys in black riot gear with the blank looks and the plain-clothed ‘Karate gangs’ – bad boys offered an escape and twenty quid a day in return for a pledge to kick the shit out of line-crossers.
I go into the court building for a bit of respite from the sun and walk past two women standing at the entrance.
“Why are they insulting the president?” one of them asks the other.
The officer in charge thinks he’s a bit smooth, in his summer whites and wrap around shades and, of all things, a cigar. He watches the protestors with a smirk on his face, conspicuously brandishing his authority and his cigar. The protestors are allowed to chant whatever they want, but must remain on a ledge next to the court building’s stairs: they are not allowed to stand on the pavement.
Fierce exchanges and a mini-war at first over this patch of land. The officers win, of course.
Chanting continues and a middle-aged woman walking past stops to watch.
“Yalla ya mama” [move on, love], says the officer.
“I’m just interested in hearing what they’re saying,” she says, meekly.
“Yaaaaa, I’ve heard it 6 million times before,” he tells her, proudly.
“It’s the first time I hear such things,” she replies.
“Tab, yalla emshy 3alashan…” [ok, well move on because…] – but she is already gone, looking behind her as she walks, unable to tear her eyes away, and he doesn’t have to think of a reason why she should leave.
As usual the police busy themselves with preventing the general public from receiving the message that they are being oppressed, cheated and wronged. Passer-bys are moved on, waved on, urged on, ordered on. But like the 6 million times woman they are fascinated, and stop and suck it all in for as long as the men with the guns tucked in the back of their jeans will let them.