For the second week in a row, Friday protests in support of ousted president Mohamed Morsi showed a relatively low turnout compared with previous rallies organised since the former president’s ouster on 3 July.
Clashes occurred at many of the rallies across the countries, leading to six deaths and dozens of injuries after scuffles between protesters and police forces, or in some cases local residents.
While protests called for by the National Coalition to Support Legitimacy – led by the Muslim Brotherhood – took place in many Egyptian cities, none of the rallies came close to approaching the hundreds of thousands-strong demonstrations organised by the alliance before.
Friday’s protests – under the banner “the people reclaim their revolution”– were planned to kick start a campaign of civil disobedience against Egypt’s interim government, demanding that Morsi – who was removed by the military after mass protests against him – be reinstated.
Protests in previous weeks have frequently ended in bloody violence and deadly clashes with security forces, which may have taken a toll on mobilisation.
In addition, the Muslim Brotherhood – known for its organisational power – is believed to have been weakened by a spate of arrests targeting the Islamist group since the violent dispersal of their sit-ins on 14 August and the subsequent declaration of a state of emergency by Egypt’s interim president.
So far an estimated 1,800 Brotherhood members and supporters have been arrested during the past two weeks, including top Brotherhood figures like Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie and his deputy Khairat El-Shater.
The Brotherhood’s senior figures have been slapped with charges including inciting violence and in some cases forming an armed faction and terrorising the state and its citizens.
On Friday, the latest prominent Brotherhood member to be arrested, Mohamed El-Beltagy, was given a 30-day detention order by the prosecution pending investigation into charges that include attempted murder, inciting violence and chaos, and damaging public property.
Previous mass rallies by the Brotherhood took place the weekend following the 14 August dispersal of two large pro-Morsi protest camps during which police killed hundreds and injured thousands.
Clashes kill 7
Protests were reported on Friday in Cairo and Giza, Egypt’s second city Alexandria, the Nile Delta cities of Tanta, Mansoura and Zagazig, the Suez Canal city of Port Said and Ismailiya and Upper Egypt’s Assiut and Minya cities.
Deadly clashes broke out again on Friday at the site of many protests. Al-Ahram’s Arabic news website reported that three protesters were killed during clashes between police forces and protesters in Giza’s Mohandiseen district.
Another two people were killed in Sharqiya province’s Zagazig city after clashes between Morsi supporters and street vendors, according to Al-Ahram. The Brotherhood’s official website said the protesters were killed after police and armed thugs targeted protesters and besieged those who tried to escape.
One resident was killed in Port Said, according to a health ministry official who spoke to Al-Ahram Arabic.
Another one died in the hospital in Ismailia after being shot in the head, according to Al-Ahram Arabic.
In Greater Cairo several large rallies were reported in the districts of Mohandiseen, Maadi and Nasr City. AFP reported that a rally in Nasr City was several thousand strong while others around the capital were smaller. The news agency also noted the dwindling numbers of the rallies compared to previous protest days.
By the time curfew started at 7pm on Friday, pro-Morsi protests had either ended or were being dispersed, such as the one in Mohandiseen and another at Assiut’s Amawy Mosque.
Tens of protesters were detained by police nationwide, including 34 in the Mohandiseen clashes.
Millions took to streets: Brotherhood alliance
The National Coalition to Support Legitimacy insists that mass “anti-coup” protests took place on Friday and said there was scant media coverage of them.
“The people have heeded the call and reclaimed the spirit of the revolution. Millions of Egyptians came out after Friday prayers on 30 August in all governorates,” a statement by the coalition asserted.
The statement accused the “putschist” media of focusing on the peripheries of rallies to give a false impression of the events.
The statement also condemned what it said were detentions of protesters and shootings by police to disperse demonstrations in many cities which, it said, led to the deaths in Zagazig and Port Said.
The coalition said it would push its demands to reclaim “legitimacy,” which the alliance explained before is the return of Morsi and the suspended Shura Council, as well as the reinstatement of the 2012 constitution – currently in the process of being amended.
The Egyptian government reiterated its rhetoric against “terrorism” in a statement released by the cabinet on Friday afternoon.
“The prime minister … assures that any terrorist or unlawful elements seeking to threaten the country’s security will be dealt with,” the statement read.
Blaming Friday’s deaths on violent behaviour, the cabinet statement said it “regrets any Egyptian bloodshed that occurred due to some who chose not to protest peacefully.”