Cairo/Port Saeed: Thousands of opponents of President Mohammad Mursi returned to the streets of Egypt on Friday, demanding his overthrow after the deadliest violence of his seven months in power.
Men in black shirts of mourning marched through the Suez Canal city of Port Saeed, scene of the worst bloodshed of the past 9 days, chanting and shaking their fists.
Brandishing portraits of those killed in the latest violence, they shouted: “We will die like they did, to get justice!”
Protests marking the second anniversary of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak have killed nearly 60 people since January 25, prompting the head of the army to warn this week that the state was on the verge of collapse.
For the Port Saeed marchers, Friday was also the first anniversary of a football stadium riot that killed 70 people last year. Death sentences handed down on Saturday against 21 Port Saeed people over the riots fueled the past week’s violence there, which saw dozens shot dead in clashes with police.
Mursi imposed a curfew and emergency rule in Port Saeed and two other canal cities on Sunday, a move that only seems to have added to the sense of local grievance.
Protesters also marched in Alexandria, Esmailia and the capital Cairo, where they were expected to descend on the presidential palace. Mursi’s supporters have clashed with protesters at the palace in the past, although the Brotherhood has kept its men off the streets in recent days.
Mohamed Ahmed, 26, protesting at the palace, said: “I am here because I want my rights, the ones the revolution called for and which were never achieved.”
In Alexandria hundreds blocked a major traffic intersection.
The protesters accuse Mursi of betraying the spirit of the revolution by concentrating too much power in his own hands and those of his Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood accuses the opposition of trying to overthrow the first democratically elected leader in Egypt’s 7,000-year history.
Friday’s marches took place despite an intervention by Shaikh Ahmed Al Tayyeb, head of the 1,000-year-old Al Azhar university and mosque, who hauled in politicians for crisis talks on Thursday and pushed them to sign a charter disavowing violence. Anti-Mursi politicians said that pact did not require them to call off demonstrations.
“We brought down the Mubarak regime with a peaceful revolution and are determined to realise the same goals in the same way, regardless of the sacrifices or the barbaric oppression,” tweeted Mohammad Al Baradei, a former head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog who has become a secularist leader.
In a statement released overnight, leftist leader Hamdeen Sabahi said despite the Azhar initiative he would not enter talks until bloodshed was halted, a state of emergency lifted and those to blame for the violence brought to justice.
“Our aim ... is to complete the goals of the glorious January revolution: bread, freedom and social justice,” he said.