Egypt's anti-Brotherhood protests make little impact

Ahram Online, Friday 24 Aug 2012

Few thousands march on Cairo's presidential palace to protest the political 'domination' of the Muslim Brotherhood; Tahrir Square sees clashes; demonstrations outside the capital are negligible

Anti-Morsi
Anti-Morsi protesters chant slogans in front of the presidential palace during a demonstration in Cairo (Photo: Reuters)

Friday's protests, which marked the first anti-Muslim Brotherhood rally since Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was sworn in, attracted only few thousand Egyptians angry at what they perceive the Brotherhood's attempt to monopolize power.

Cairo's Heliopolis presidential palace was the eventual destination of the protesters, whose presence outside the Egyptian capital was very limited in what was planned to be nationwide mass protests.

Up to 3,000 people, many of which are growing increasingly frustrated with what they deem the Brotherhood's attempts to curb freedoms and dominate the political scene, gathered in front of the presidential palace by sunset but it was not clear whether they would stage a sit-in. Their number notably decreased in the evening.

They chanted "down with the rule of the Brotherhood," "we want a civil state not a Brotherhood state," and "the Brotherhood are murderers," echoing the worries of some liberal figures, most of whom refused to participate in the protest, however.

Some of them considered the protest call untimely, given that Morsi has only been in office for less than two months, while others simply disagreed with the protests' organisers, such as renowned writer Alaa Al-Aswani.

The demonstrations were led by former MP Mohamed Abu-Hamed, a staunch Brotherhood adversary who called for "mass protests" on 24 August to overthrow Morsi and the Islamic organisation's "rule."

Protesters marched from the memorial of the Unknown Soldier in the eastern Cairo district of Nasr City. Hundreds of them had already been demonstrating in front of the presidential palace, situated in the not-too-distant Korba area.

These were the first protests to be staged against the Brotherhood and Morsi since the latter was inaugurated as president in late June, succeeding autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak who was toppled by an 18-day uprising last year.

Abu-Hamed headed back to the memorial to lead the march to the fortified presidential palace, with tight security measures and barbed wires in place in the nearby streets.

Meanwhile, reports of violent clashes in the iconic Tahrir Square, which has been filled by Brotherhood supporters on many occasions since the 2011 uprising, circulated midday.

Egypt's official state news agency MENA said that a Cairo hospital has received four injured people, who were shot by rubber bullets, from the area around Tahrir.

Earlier in the afternoon, minor scuffles broke out between a few dozen Morsi supporters and their anti-Brotherhood counterparts in the same square.

The health ministry-affiliated Egyptian Ambulance Organisation said 10 people had been injured during Friday's protests in Cairo, four of which were hospitalised. 

Widespread calls for the protests had been spreading across social networking sites for weeks. Two controversial Egyptian figures, anti-revolution television presenter Tawfiq Okasha and Abu-Hamed, were the first to call for the demonstrations that they wanted to be a "million-man march."

Their demands included stopping the Brotherhood from "dominating state institutions" and launching a probe into the funding of the 80-year-old Islamist group, which became the most powerful after being oppressed for decades under the rule of army strongmen Gamal Abdel-Nasser, Anwar El-Sadat and Mubarak.

Doubters believe it is the Brotherhood and its leaders who actually rule Egypt and not President Morsi, a leading figure of the group.

Morsi stressed more than once that he is completely independent and only committed to Egypt.

Outside Cairo                                  

In the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, violent clashes erupted between residents and dozens of anti-Brotherhood protesters in the district of Sidi Gaber near the Northern military base.

According to Al-Ahram's Arabic news portal, a group of protesters fired shots in the air after a scuffle with residents who have asked them to move away from their neighbourhood. The matter escalated when more protesters took out bladed weapons, sparking a free-for-all.

The governorate of Mansoura, on the Nile Delta between Cairo and Alexandria, witnessed smaller protests.

In several other governorates, Muslim Brotherhood members aided by plain-clothed police personnel formed human chains to secure the headquarters of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party after rumours circulated that protesters might resort to violence.

The Facebook page calling for the protest had insisted it would be peaceful.

The anti-Brotherhood protests should continue on Saturday.

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