Egyptian police clashed with protesters in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla on Sunday, firing tear gas and arresting at least 150 after plans for a strike at the city's textile factory were scrapped under pressure from security forces.
Angry residents demanding an end to price hikes and soaring inflation set two schools ablaze and burnt tires along the city's railway.
Workers at the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in Mahalla had planned a strike on Sunday to demand higher pay, but security pressure and internal divisions prevented it from taking place.
Around the country, plans for a general strike -- inspired by the Mahalla action -- fizzled out after the government made good on its warning to take firm action against protesters by arresting dozens of people.
Among those detained were opposition leaders including Islamist journalist Mohammed Abdel Qudoos and Magdi Hussein who heads the suspended Labour party.
Bloggers and members of other opposition parties, including the Nasserist and the liberal Ghad parties as well as from the protest movement Kefaya, were also arrested.
Analysts said that even though a massive strike did not take place nationally, the call to strike was significant in itself.
"We must not underestimate the call. Even if it did not have a large effect, it's the first time such a call has been made," Mustafa Kamel al-Sayyed, a politics professor at the American University in Cairo, told AFP.
He said the move "reflects a general feeling of discontent in the country."
It is unclear who initiated the call which snowballed after some 25,000 employees at the textile plant in Mahalla announced plans to strike from Sunday over low salaries and price hikes.
In Mahalla, the strike was called off after pressure from security forces and internal divisions, employees said.
A strike would have been considered illegal without the backing of unions which are linked mainly to the ruling National Democratic Party.
Sky-rocketing food prices in Egypt this year have been met in recent weeks by a rumbling wave of popular discontent and unprecedented strikes and demonstrations.
On Saturday the interior ministry threatened "immediate and firm measures against any attempt to demonstrate, disrupt road traffic or the running of public establishments and against all attempts to incite such acts."
The interior ministry insisted that all public institutions, including schools and state-run factories, should open for business as usual.
And it accused "provocateurs and illegal movements" of having "spread false rumours and called for protests, demonstrations and a strike on Sunday."
The state-owned daily Al-Ahram warned that those inciting or participating in the strike could go to jail.
The UN's World Food Program said this month that the average household expenditure in Egypt had risen by 50 percent since January 1.