Thousands fill Khartoum streets in ‘millions march’, driven back by security forces under gunfire, tear gas
 
 

“Sunday will be different from the rest of the revolution that began in December, as we are facing oppression by military forces that are not trained to disperse demonstrations, namely the Rapid Support Forces and the army,” Ahmed Babkar told Mada Masr. He was preparing to march from the southern Khartoum suburb of Jabra to a house in the Sahafa neighborhood — the family home of someone who was killed during the revolution.

“However, we will face it resolutely, because our cause is just, and it is our right to have civilian rule with the consensus of all Sudanese people, not the military,” he said.

In the leadup to the anniversary of the 1989 coup led by deposed President Omar al-Bashir to oust former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, the Coalition for Freedom and Change, a broad-based opposition bloc steered primarily by the Sudanese Professionals Association, amplified its calls for civilians to join the march despite the media blackout imposed by the Transitional Military Council. The council dominates official media outlets and has cut off internet access across Sudan since the violent dispersal of the mass sit-in in front of the military headquarters on June 3. 

Babkar’s fears were confirmed on Sunday just before 1 pm, when the “march of millions” planned by the Coalition for Freedom and Change were set to begin. Police and RSF vehicles were heavily deployed on streets throughout Khartoum, especially in front of government buildings and bank headquarters. Police forces were also positioned at major markets and bus stations.

As the march time approached, Mada Masr’s correspondent witnessed the closure of all shops in the Arab Market area of central Khartoum, the largest commercial center in the capital, and traffic in the capital stopped almost completely.

Shortly before the start time, the Sudanese Professionals Association, which organized protests across the country, announced the march routes in central Khartoum, centered on busy areas and transportation hubs. At Jackson Bus Station, the largest transportation center in central Khartoum, hundreds of association members gathered and began their march toward the presidential palace. However, police forces launched teargas canisters at the demonstrators, forcefully dispersing them.

 “In nearly 41 minutes, we were in control of Airport Road — it was truly a million man march,” Babkar said.

Mada Masr’s correspondent saw this procession, on one of the largest streets in Khartoum, filling the street from the Central Market district in the south to the Afra Mall area in the north. Other demonstrators marched from neighborhoods in eastern and western Khartoum, where, over the course of four hours, demonstrators took complete control of the street and converged on the city center.

There were similar scenes in neighboring cities as well, eyewitnesses from the Khartoum Bahri and Omdurman tell Mada Masr. Abir Abdullah, who participated in the march from Street 40 in the Abbasiya neighborhood of Omdurman, said that tens of thousands of people controlled the street at the appointed time. 

“The marches surrounded the RSF in the area and forced them to fall back, then retreat,” she says.

In Khartoum Bahri, Omar Amr, who participated in the protests, explained that the demonstrations began at the planned time, took control of the main streets in the area and moved toward the homes of revolutionaries who had been killed.

As evening approached and thousands of demonstrators were still spilling out into the street, the Sudanese Professionals Association and the Coalition for Freedom and Change called on the street protesters to march toward the presidential palace, which was the initial aim of the protesters who formed the sit-in outside military headquarters in early April.

Mada Masr’s correspondent witnessed thousands of people marching toward the presidential palace in central Khartoum from Airport Road. Before they could reach the palace, military forces opened fire on the protesters. 

Violence escalated over the course of the next hour. Security forces fired teargas at protesters, which turned into cat-and-mouse clashes between police and protesters, who continued to press on toward the presidential palace.

Protesters marching from Khartoum Bahri and Omdurman were blocked at the bridges to central Khartoum by security forces and the RSF. According to eyewitnesses, violent clashes erupted between the protesters and RSF by the bridge entrances. Witnesses heard gunfire and teargas late into the evening on Sunday.

Mada Masr’s correspondent also saw armed men in civilian vehicles open fire on the crowd of protesters heading toward the palace from the south. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemedti”, the deputy of the Transitional Military Council and head of the Rapid Support Forces, said in a brief address that unknown snipers opened fire on civilians and RSF during the protests in Khartoum. Protesters have dismissed Hemedti’s claim, saying that the same claim of violent infiltrators was used to justify the ruling coalition’s violent attack on the mass sit-in last month. 

As casualties mounted in the crackdown on demonstrators, injured protesters went to medical centers for treatment. Just as they had during June’s sit-in dispersal, security forces stormed the Qadarif hospital and opened fire, injuring a number of people, according to a statement posted by the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors on its official Twitter page Sunday evening.

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