Street vendors gathered outside five governorate buildings on Sunday protesting a law which toughens punishments for vendors.
The law issued by President Mohamed Morsy in December 2012 increased the punishment of unlicensed street vendors to three months in prison or an EGP 1,000 fine, multiplying the punishment to six months in prison or an EGP 5,000 for a repeat offence. The previous punishment was a maximum of one month in prison or a maximum of an EGP 5 fine.
The independent union of street vendors called for protests outside the governorate buildings of Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said, Suez and Assiut. Dozens of vendors surrounded the Suez governorate building, raising banners and chanting.
The numbers were reportedly larger in front of the Cairo governorate building in Abdeen, as vendors chanted loudly, vowing not to leave until someone listens to their demands.
Abdel Rahman Mohamed, the secretary general of the Street Vendors Independent Union in Cairo, said: “We call for freezing this law until our situation as street vendors is legalized.”
He added that the union would provide a list of empty venues downtown which could be allocated for street vendors: “If one street vendor exercises his business elsewhere, without a license and disrupting traffic, then [the law] could be used against him.”
Mohamed said that besides the list of venues they are providing, the union is open to other suggestions from the authorities “as long as they are in Downtown.”
He added that the union would not accept venues far from Downtown Cairo, in cities such as 6th of October or Al-Salam: “Where would we find customers in such faraway places?”
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights released a statement on Saturday voicing its solidarity with the street vendors and their cause. The organisation said that chasing and punishing vendors and confiscating their products is a resurrection of the security mechanism the former regime used to resolve social and economic problems. They added that the law was issued without any consultation.
The street vendors organised a previous protest two weeks ago. They met with the Cairo governor who promised to discuss their demands and get back to them.
“Nobody has contacted us ever since then,” said Mohamed, adding that further escalations are in order should Sunday’s protests also fail to resolve the problem.
The Street Vendors Union referred in their statement to the Sunday protests as a spark of the “Hunger Revolution.”
The Union recalled in their statement Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who sparked the Arab Spring by setting himself on fire in December 2010 in protest at his poor socio-economic conditions.
Additional reporting by Hassan Ghoneima