Monday,16 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1135, 14 - 20 February
Monday,16 July, 2018
Issue 1135, 14 - 20 February

Ahram Weekly

Still the square

Two years after toppling Mubarak, Egyptians again took to the streets to demand freedom and social justice, reports Mohamed Abdel-Baky

Al-Ahram Weekly

Marches that were planned by opposition groups to commemorate the second anniversary of the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak turned violent with clashes with security forces in cities across the country.

In Cairo, protesters clashed with police outside Al-Ittihadiya presidential palace on Monday, after youths threw stones at security personal during a march opposing President Mohamed Morsi.

Thousands participated in the march accusing Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood of hijacking the revolution and seeking to monopolise power.
Police forces responded by firing water cannons and tear gas from the presidential compound whose walls have been increased in height in some places and shielded by barbed wire after petrol bombs set fire to a building in the grounds last week. Riot police later chased the protesters away from the palace and into side streets.

Graffiti scribbled on the palace walls read: “erhal” or “leave”, the chant that echoed through Cairo’s Tahrir Square through the 18 days of the revolution starting on 25 January 2011.Earlier the same day, the new and still mysterious Black Bloc group blocked trains in Tahrir’s underground metro station and dozens of protesters blocked traffic above ground with burning tyres.At the same time, hundreds rallied outside the office of the prosecutor-general demanding justice and retribution for protesters killed in clashes with security forces in the last few weeks. Another group of protesters locked the doors of Al-Mugamma, the main administrative building in Tahrir which is located just outside the subway station in the square.

The protesters lobbed plastic bags filled with red liquid at the prosecutor’s office to mark the bloodshed by civilians in clashes with security forces.
The prosecutor’s appointment by Morsi was criticised as a violation of the judiciary’s independence.

The main Cairo rally was in central Tahrir Square, the focal point of three weeks of demonstrations in 2011 that led to Mubarak’s resignation.
Amid opposition calls for Morsi to sack his cabinet and form a national unity government, Prime Minister Hisham Kandil said in a government statement that “the revolution will bear fruit through serious work and effort, and by avoiding incitement and political brinkmanship.”

While the anger of protesters was directed at security, hundreds of policemen staged a sit-in in several governorates to demand not to be used as a tool for political turmoil.

At the same time protests were staged on Tuesday in 10 governorates outside local security directorate headquarters. Demonstrators carried signs reading, “we are innocent of the blood of the martyrs”.

Although small, the protests marked a rare instance of dissent by Egypt’s police force. The rallies reflect fear among many policemen of a public backlash after weeks of violence between security forces and protesters.

After seven months in office, Morsi’s popularity has fallen some 10 per cent to 53 per cent, according to pollster Maged Othman of the Egyptian Centre for Public Opinion Research (Baseera). The poll was conducted via telephone interviews with more than 2,300 participants and had a margin of error of less than three per cent. Only 39 per cent of those polled said they would elect Morsi again if there were new elections, compared to 50 per cent a month earlier.

Opposition figure Amr Moussa urged Morsi to reconsider the views of the opposition. Talking to Al-Qahera Al-Youm talk show on Sunday, Moussa said, “it is wrong to see the rising street anger against Morsi as a conspiracy to topple him.”

A wave of anti-Morsi protests also erupted in more than 10 governorates, including Alexandria, Menoufiya, Suez, Port Said, Ismailia, Sohag, Gharbiya, Sharqiya, Kafr Al-Sheikh and Damietta.

In Gharbiya, hundreds of angry protesters clashed with security after throwing Molotov cocktails on the governor’s office. The clashes led to some cars and trees catching fire as well as minor damage.

The same clashes were repeated in Sharqiya, but protesters also tried to break into the governorate headquarters.
An increasingly violent wave of protests has spread outside the capital in recent weeks as political initiatives failed to assuage the anger. Most of the protests were organised by the National Salvation Front, the main opposition body.

The recent explosion of violence began on the second anniversary of the revolution. It accelerated with riots in the Suez Canal city of Port Said by youths furious over death sentences issued against local soccer fans over a bloody stadium riot a year ago. Around 74 fans were killed in this wave of clashes.
Violent mob attacks against women protesters increasingly marred gatherings in Tahrir Square.

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