A group of approximately fifty people staged a flash protest in downtown Cairo earlier this evening, chanting anti-government slogans and lighting fireworks as they made their way from Mohamed Mahmoud Street to Bab Al-Luq, where they quickly dispersed at the intersection of Hoda Sharawi and Sharafeen Street.
Timing and location were highly symbolic, as the protest took place two days before the anniversary of the Mohamed Mahmoud Street clashes of 2011, which killed 47 people and left hundreds injured, many with critical eye injuries.
Finding myself in the area, I followed tonight’s demonstration from beginning to end. The protestors appeared to be all very young—many of them in their teens. They chanted ash-shab yurid isqat an-nizam (the people want to bring down the regime), a slogan that first emerged during the Tunisian revolution and that quickly become one of the most popular mottos of the January 25 revolution in Egypt.
I also heard the demonstrators shout anti-Sisi slogans and noticed how several shopkeepers watched them contemptuously. One man said dismissively, “There they go, the Morsi supporters.” Another one said, “What are they shooting for?” referring to the loud bangs of the fireworks.
I tailed the small but boisterous crowd as it walked through Bab Al-Luq in the middle of the street, holding back traffic and setting off another salvo of fireworks. At this point, I began to maintain a certain distance, half expecting the authorities to appear at any moment and start arresting people. But before that happened, the protesters scrammed on their own.
It appeared to be a planned strategy, deliberately aimed at avoiding confrontation with security forces.
Indeed, in the current political climate protestors may have come to believe that small flash protests are a more effective means of expressing dissent than traditional demonstrations in large public squares.