Disabled people’s protests block Qasr al-Aini

Approximately 200 handicapped protesters gathered in front of the People’s Assembly on Thursday afternoon, deliberately blocking Qasr al-Aini Street in an attempt to bring attention to their plight.

The protesters, a number of whom were confined to wheelchairs and leaning on crutches, carried hand-written and printed signs listing their demands, at the fore of which was the immediate formation of a cabinet-based national council to ensure the protection of people with special needs. The protesters also demanded the protection of their rights as determined by the international declaration for human rights.

Under a banner reading, “handicapped youth were part of the revolution–so where are our rights?” protesters passed around a megaphone, broadcasting chants and angry accusations. Members of the armed forces responded to the sudden protest by rolling out steel barriers between the crowd and the growing line of traffic and attempted to redirect cars down a side street.

The protesters’ demands also included the dissolution of the existing parliamentary committee for people with special needs, and the dismissal of its director, Nabil Salem.

“We want Nabil Salem to resign immediately,” one protester said. “If we hear that he has resigned, we will be happy.” But the reactions of those around him suggested that the majority of the protesters would not be as easily satisfied.

"We have been contacting ministers and cabinet members with our demands for 30 years,” said Ali Abou el-Maged, acting as the protesters’ spokesman. “But no one has responded to us."

Abou el-Maged’s claim was evident in the protesters’ tactics, including repeated attempts to block soldiers from creating a narrow passageway for the growing number of cars stuck on the street.

When one end of the street was successfully cleared of protesters to let cars through, protesters alerted each other of the need to reinforce their presence at the street ends to ensure traffic would be completely halted. At several points, tensions escalated between protesters, armed soldiers, and the frustrated drivers stuck in traffic. Several heated arguments threatened to grow violent, and at one point, armed soldiers huddled around a microbus and the sound of tasers was heard, but there were no visible injuries or altercations.

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