In Egypt, Technology Helps Spread Discontent of Workers;
In Mahalla, the center of the nation’s textile industry, riot police fired tear gas at stone-throwing crowds. Angry demonstrators set fire to two schools, a tourism company and a truck carrying subsidized food, officials said.
“I am not about to claim that the Egyptian people are finally rebelling,” said Abdel Wahab el-Messery, an organizer with Kifaya, an opposition movement, who once served as the Arab League’s cultural attaché to the United Nations. “The element of fear is there. The people are afraid of the government, but the government is as afraid of the people.”
In an indication of how seriously the government took the threat, it issued a warning to potential strikers on Saturday, saying it would “take necessary and resolute measures toward any attempt to demonstrate, impede traffic, hamper work in public facilities or to incite any of this.”
State security agents visited government workers in advance and ordered them to attend work on Sunday, workers said.
The protesters’ main complaint was economic: rising prices, depressed salaries and what opposition leaders here said is an unprecedented gap between rich and the poor.
What may have most spooked officials was the way technology, especially cellphones, was used to spread the word, political analysts said. Mass messages circulated listing “demands” that included increased security, no more inflation, housing aid for young couples and an end to “torture in police stations.”