CAIRO: Hundreds of vendors, drivers and workers in the wholesale poultry industry briefly blocked the road leading to the State TV building Maspero as well as Sixth of October Bridge on Friday, calling on the government to allow them to sell live poultry.
Protests scheduled this Friday were initially organized to show solidarity with the families of the martyrs and injured of the January 25 revolution and a group demanding housing, who have been camping outside Maspero for weeks.
While some protesters said representatives of the poultry industry met with Prime Minister Essam Sharaf to discuss their demands after they opened the road, others claimed they met with the Cairo governor. The meeting was still in session by press time.
The vendors complained that when the avian flu broke out in Egypt in 2005, the government issued a law preventing vendors from selling, buying or transporting live poultry.
However six years later, the security vacuum that followed the January 25 Revolution allowed the poultry vendors to resume their businesses without being hassled by police. But vendors say that business resumption was short-lived as police is back to confiscating their poultry.
They accused police officers of demanding bribes to allow their poultry through the check points over the past few days, adding that these were the same corrupt methods used under the former regime.
"I was heading to a farm in Mansoura to buy some poultry two days ago," driver Ahmed Ali told Daily News Egypt, “the police confiscated my truck and the LE 40,000 I had with me to pay for the poultry," he added.
The protesters argued that reviving the poultry industry would help the Egyptian economy, the people who will be able to afford cheaper poultry and the workers who have been unemployed for years.
"Who is the government serving by importing frozen chickens from abroad, while the country's economy and workers suffer from unemployment?" asked Mahmoud Ibrahim, owner of three trucks specialized in transporting poultry.
"The former regime served the big businesses that made profits from importing frozen chickens," he added, "Who is this government serving?"
The protesters suggested the government hold regular inspections on poultry shops and shipments and only confiscate those infected with the avian flu.
"We clean the chickens and gut them, if they're sick we are the first ones who will be affected by them," said Mohamed Manaa, a worker in a poultry shop.
"Each poultry shop has at least six people working in it and these people have families they provide for, all these people have become unemployed," he added.
Many pedestrians and passersby were infuriated by the vendors’ attempt to block the bridge.
"If you want to demand your rights, you should do that without blocking the roads and preventing people from getting around," former accountant Mohsen Ibrahim said.
In another corner in front of Maspero, around 100 of the martyrs' family members rallied calling for the swift prosecution of former officials responsible for the death of their children, especially ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
The families accused the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of collaborating with Mubarak against them.
"Our children's blood has been wasted," father of martyr Ahmed Kahlifa Ahmed said.
"We want justice to be served," mother of martyr Kahled Atteya said. Atteya, 18, was shot in the chest by a sniper in Dar El-Salam district near a police station on Jan. 28.
The protesters stressed that the people who died at police stations were also martyrs and not thugs like the interior ministry claimed.
"My brother didn't have to die in Tahrir to be a martyr," Ibrahim Youssef, 25, said.
Mubarak’s trial for charges of killing the protesters is slated for Aug. 3.
The two protests joined the sit-in of residents of Madinat El-Salam camps, who have been protesting in front of Maspero for weeks, calling for affordable government housing.
The protesters said that a four-year-old boy, Youssef Imam, drowned while his father was bathing him in the Nile on Tuesday. Another protester, Tamer Mahmoud, 33, allegedly drowned while he was bathing in the Nile on June 11. Mahmoud left behind a pregnant wife and a four-year-old daughter.
The protesters said that police authorities have shut down all public bathrooms in the area, forcing them to use the Nile's water to wash up
The residents said they were forcibly evicted from their apartments in Al-Nahda area in Madinat Al-Salam, following the January 25 Revolution.
They said that reports about thugs taking over apartments in the area scared the landlords who decided to take preemptive measures and evict them. Others couldn’t afford to pay the rent after their daily wages were cut, after the economic slump that followed the revolution.