Mass opposition rallies across Egypt

Sat, Feb 9, 2013, 00:00

Tens of thousands of Egyptians beating drums and brandishing flags took part yesterday in what were called Friday of Dignity demonstrations in Cairo, Alexandria, and cities along the strategic Suez Canal cities and in the Delta.

In at least one instance, police responded with tear gas. But the protesters were firm in their resolve. “Leave, leave!” they chanted at President Mohamed Morsi and demanded an end to Muslim Brotherhood rule.

While several thousand gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the main rally was at the presidential palace, where elite Republican Guardsmen sought to prevent demonstrators reaching the elegant white building. Protesters demanded retribution for the deaths last week of three youths, dubbed “martyrs of the revolution,” and now numbering more than 1,000.

Marchers from 38 largely secular groups arrived from all directions. Coptic Christians carried photographs of 27 people slain during clashes with the army in October 2011.

They are furious over the sentencing this week of two Copts to three years in prison for snatching weapons from soldiers during this protest, while no soldiers have been tried for killing Copts condemning discrimination.

A phalanx of Black Bloc activists, dressed in black and wearing masks and helmets, circulated among the throng. This secretive group emerged at the end of January with the aim of protecting protesters from assault. Blanket arrest warrants have been issued for them.

Protesters arming

Street theatre director and activist Ahmad, a friend and colleague of Mohamed El-Guindi, who was disappeared and tortured to death by police, said protesters were also arming to protect themselves from the security forces, fundamentalist militiamen, and thugs, “baltagiya”, deployed by opponents of the revolution.

Women who took part in anti-harassment marches on Wednesday bore kitchen knives and rolling pins, while men flanked female marchers to fend off attacks from groups of men committing horrific rapes.