Back to days of Mubarak? Egypt’s police clash with activists as protest law takes effect

Police clashed with protesters in Egypt’s capital of Cairo as hundreds of activists came out to defy the new law banning public gatherings of more than ten people. Teargas and water cannons were fired as security forces enforced the new legislation.

Protesters chanted "down, down with military rule,” as some 20 people were arrested, Reuters quoted the state news agency as saying. 

Hundreds of people gathered in central Cairo on Tuesday for a fresh protest against the restrictive new law. Adopted on Sunday, the legislation grants the Interior Ministry the right to ban any kind of protests of over ten people taking place without police approval. 

Protesters were hit within moments of coming onto the streets, RT’s Bel Trew reported from Cairo. “It certainly feels like we moved to a new era here in Egypt. People were fired on by teargas and water cannons, and heavily beaten within moments of coming to the streets to protest in defiance of this particular piece of legislation,” she reported. 

“They were rounded up and among the dozens who were arrested including sixteen women. This sparked uproar across the country.”

Anti-government protesters shout slogans against the military and interior ministry during a protest against a new law in Egypt that restricts demonstrations, in downtown Cairo November 26, 2013. (Reuters / Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

Security officials responded to Tuesday’s arrests, saying that protesters were not given permission for the gathering and were warned of that fact. The military-backed government is arguing that it simply wants to restore order to the streets.

"We are implementing the new protest law that requires protesters to seek permission from the Interior Ministry three days before the protest," a police official said. 

Egyptian protesters set fire to wood at Talaat Harb Square in downtown Cairo on November 26, 2013.(AFP Photo / Mohamed Abdelwahab)

Human rights groups have criticized the law, stating that it is anti-democratic. "(The) new protest law gives security forces free rein," Amnesty International said.

RT’s Trew added that Egyptian activists feel as though the country has turned back the clock to the days of Hosni Mubarak’s rule, “when these kinds of rallies were swiftly moved from the streets by the security forces who were given the carte blanche to use violence to move people on.”

Tear gas fired by riot police at protesters fill the air during clashes at Talaat Harab square in downtown Cairo November 26, 2013.(Reuters / Mohamed Abd El Ghany)