Hundreds protested outside Downing Street on Wednesday evening and again this morning, Thursday, against Egypt’s military-backed president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
They chanted “David Cameron shame on you” for inviting el-Sisi to Britain.
Somaia Halawa, whose brother is imprisoned in Egypt, had travelled from Ireland with her sister to join the demonstration. “I’m here because David Cameron has invited the man who arrested and put my only brother in jail,” she told Socialist Worker.
She described how she witnessed the Rabaa massacre in Cairo, when the military killed up to 1,000 protestors. But she added that “business becomes more important than human life” to the British government.
The protests were called by a number of organisations including, the Stop the War Coalition, the Egypt Solidarity Initiative and the Stop Sisi campaign.
Egyptian student Toka Gad is studying in Britain. She told Socialist Worker that having Sisi to visit means “giving the dictator more power to kill students and other protesters who want to demonstrate about anything”.
Andrew Murray, speaking on behalf of Britain's largest union Unite, said it was a “day of shame”. Lindsey German from Stop the War said she was “disgusted” at Cameron’s invite because it was justifying the deaths and repression carried out by Sisi’s regime.
Anne Alexander from the Egypt Solidarity Initiative told the crowd that around Britain “trade unionists, students and activists were appalled by Sisi’s crimes.”
“Sisi was pretending he is a statesman,” she added. “But he is not a statesman, he is a killer.”
Placards demanded that Cameron “invite refugees not dictators”.
Several protesters were moved to tears by the testimony of relatives of those imprisoned in Egypt.
Sisi has jailed over 40,000 opposition activists and hundreds face death sentences.
When it was announced that Sisi would be arriving in Downing Street this morning, a second protest was called. It faced a counter demonstration of Sisi supporters carrying banners which proclaimed “We love you Sisi”.
The Sisi loyalists had hired open-topped double decker buses, which passed the protests with people on board waving banners and taunting protestors.
Several protesters dressed in white jump suits splashed with fake blood lay on the road at the entrance to Downing Street. They had slogans painted on their backs including “democracy”, “freedom” and one had “#free Mahienour, Alaa, Essra”—the names of political prisoners in Egypt.
Police dragged them away and arrested them to cries of shame from the demonstration.
When el-Sisi finally arrived he had to use a different entrance to avoid protesters.
Cameron wants the headlines around the visit to all be about combatting terrorism and the withdrawing of flights to Egypt.
But the protesters made sure that he faced opposition for rolling out the red carpet for the butcher of the Egyptian Revolution.