Last Sunday Cairo streets witnessed heavy security presence as police forces spread in central Cairo, especially around Tahrir Square and close to the headquarters of the lawyers and journalists syndicates which are popular venues for protests. The move came in retaliation to a call for a general strike on Sunday that had been circulating for more than a week on the Internet, via text messages and on the social networking site Facebook.
Scores of activists and bloggers were arrested. Stories circulated that the police in Cairo forced shopowners to open their shops on Sunday, their usual day-off, so that no one explains their closure as part of the general strike. A few taxi drivers did not work that day and some schools took the day off out of fear of unrest.
The unrest did not occur in Cairo though, it occurred in the Delta town of Mehalla al-Kubra where the police clashed with the workers of Mehalla Spinning and Weaving Company, who have already been on and off strikes for some six months now demanding higher salaries rights and better health care and working conditions. The police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters last Sunday, and detained several workers in the nearby towns of Tanta and Damanhour who had demonstrated in support of the Mehalla workers.
For the man of the street, however, it was unclear who had initiated the call for the protest, some political movement or party, the Muslim Brotherhood, or all of them. It was also unclear what would be the order of the day, strike, demonstrations, or boycotting goods to protest the sky-rocketing prices which have been stirring a wave of popular discontent.
If anything, the entire movement of the call for civil rebellion was vague, very poorly publicised or advocated, a lot of misconceptions reigned, and the only party which appeared to be in control was the government. The interior ministry threatened “immediate and firm measures against any attempt to demonstrate, disrupt road traffic or the running of public establishments and against all attempts to incite such acts”.