Thursday,19 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)
Thursday,19 October, 2017
Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)

Ahram Weekly

A neutral stand

The Interior Ministry prepares for three possible scenarios during 30 June’s nationwide protests, reports Ahmed Morsy

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Al-Ahram Weekly

All vacation for police and security personnel has been cancelled as the Ministry of Interior raised the level of security alert in most provinces ahead of mass demonstrations planned for 30 June. There are also plans to move police from calmer governorates to hotspots if needed.

Al-Ahram Weekly also knew that due to the ambiguity about the days on which demonstrations will occur — they could begin as early as 28 June — and the possibility that Morsi’s supporters will opt to gather in the same places and at the same time as anti-Morsi demonstrators have led the ministry to prepare for several scenarios.

The most optimistic envisages peaceful demonstrations in which case security personnel will police vital installations and maintain a low profile around protests. A second scenario sees initially peaceful demonstrations turning violent as a handful of troublemakers throw Molotov cocktails and rocks at public property. In such an event the police will be instructed to exercise restraint and allow offenders to retreat. Should they fail to do so tear gas will be used and offenders arrested. 

The most difficult scenario for the police force will be if clashes occur between rival protesters.

“The problem is in how the police can intervene between the two parties in order to separate them,” a security official told the Weekly.

Central Security officer Captain Amr encapsulates the problem: “However hard we try to be impartial during the 30 June demonstrations, one of the two demonstrating sides will accuse us of being biased,” he says.

He adds, “we remain committed to a policy of non-violence towards peaceful demonstrators. In the event of rioting, however, we have been instructed to deal with such situations forcibly.” 

On Saturday Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim met with riot police. He stressed their responsibility to ensure public safety and quell any attempts by individuals to wreak havoc during the protests and ordered them to refrain from using unnecessary force. The minister said that securing the presidential palace will be the responsibility of the Republican Guard and Central Security Forces will remain on standby in case of conflict.

“The role of the police on 30 June will be to protect the streets, peaceful protesters, public and private property, and the safety of the public at large,” said Interior Ministry spokesman Hani Abdel-Latif. “We intend to keep the streets free from any form of unlawful activity.”

Political forces that called for the 30 June anti-government protests remain sceptical about the ministry’s pledge to refrain from attacking anti-Morsi demonstrators. Political activists and human rights advocates accuse the Ministry of Interior of regularly covering up human rights abuses committed by the police. In March hundreds of activists staged a protest outside Ibrahim’s house to demand justice for those killed in clashes.

National Salvation Front spokesperson Ahmed Hawari said the ministry’s statements were “neither trustworthy nor credible” given the way security forces have repeatedly attacked peaceful demonstrations.

In an attempt to emphasise their neutrality towards protesting forces, Major Salah Zeyada, chairman of the Police Club, said during a club board meeting last week that policemen will not be guarding the premises of any political party on 30 June. The meeting ended with a statement being issued stressing the Police Club’s determination to avoid the scenes that characterised the 25 January Revolution — policemen attacking peaceful protesters and reprisal attacks in which police stations were burned to the ground.

Major General Adel Refaat, assistant minister for police personnel, said that hundreds of thousands of police conscripts and officers will be on call for 30 June demos.

“We will not retreat from streets and won’t allow chaos in the streets. Anyone attacking peaceful demonstrators will be dealt with according to the law,” Refaat told the Weekly. “Police officers will not withdraw from their position as they did on 28 January 2011.”

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