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Ultras Ahlawy stage mass march to demand justice for Port Said victims

Thousands of Ahly fans marched to public prosecutor's office in downtown Cairo on Wednesday to demand justice for victims of Port Said Stadium tragedy; mourners vow to continue struggle for lost comrades

Sherif Tarek , Wednesday 15 Feb 2012
Ultras march (Photo: Sherif Tarek)
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The Ultras Ahlawy “UA07” group on Wednesday held a protest march from the Ahly football club's headquarters to the public prosecutor's office in downtown Cairo, to demand justice for the victims of this month's football tragedy in Port Said Stadium.

Thousands of members of the Ultras Ahlawy – hardcore supporters of the Ahly football team – and some from Zamalek's equivalent group, the White Knights, held flags and banners aloft bearing images of their slain colleagues while chanting slogans demanding justice for the victims.

The march briefly blocked Cairo's 6 October Bridge on its way from the Zamalek district to Downtown area but witnessed no violence. The participants appeared highly organised despite their large number, estimated at several thousands.

Ultras Ahlawy “UA07” issued a statement on their official Facebook page urging members to remain within the main body of the march. It also banned political and partisan chants and banners during the protest and ordered its members to maintain the march's peaceful character.

Despite these instructions, however, some marchers were heard chanting “Down with military rule” in a reference to Egypt's ruling military council, which has governed the country since last year's ouster of the longstanding president Hosni Mubarak.

One of the frequently repeated chants was "The people want the trial of Port Said," a slogan that on several occasions stirred debate among the marchers, with some refusing to blame the Suez Canal city for the notorious football disaster.

Over 70 of the Ultras Ahlawy group were killed shortly after a league match between Masry and Ahly in Port Said on 1 February. Some of the assailants are widely believed to be hired thugs as well as fanatic home fans, specifically from the Green Eagles Ultras group.

During the march, demonstrators were primarily demanding that the interior minister, the head of Port Said's security directorate, the head of the interior ministry's Central Security Forces and the governor of Port Said be held responsible for the violence. The group is also demanding the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators of the violence.

One Ultras Ahlawy member told reporters that authorities had failed to prosecute those responsible for a number of clashes over the past months in Cairo's Maspero district, near Egypt's Cabinet building and Tahrir Square and finally in Port Said. "We will keep piling pressure on authorities to take action this time around," he said.

MP Mohamed Abu Hamed of the liberal Free Egyptians Party, who also participated in the march, said he was taking part in the event as a citizen and not as a member of parliament. Like other marchers, Abu Hamed demanded justice for those slain in the Port Said tragedy through "genuine" trials.

"This march will have a positive impact as long as it remains peaceful in nature," Abu Hamed said.  

Salafyo Costa, a pro-revolution liberal/Salafist movement, also participated in Wednesday's march. Movement founder Mohamed Tolba told Ahram Online that every Egyptian is "entitled to his or her right to express their opinion – including criticism of the ruling military council."

Prominent activist-blogger Alaa Abdel Fatah and would-be presidential contender Bothaina Kamel both also took part in Wednesday's march.

The march arrived by dusk to its destination, the prosecutor general's office at the High Court house on Ramses Street. Upon their arrival, protesters kept repeating the same slogans. While chanting, they also lit quite a few flares, which they traditionally use while egging on their team from the stands.

Exactly at 19:15 CMT, protesters, as they agreed on Facebook, recited out loud verses of Quran (El-Fatha) for the victims who became "martyrs" in Port Said. The attack on the Ahly fans started at the same time on the day of the tragedy.

The demonstrators, later on, observed a moment of communal silence in honour of the dead.

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