Sunday, June 30, 2013

Millions of Demonstrators in Egypt Take to the Streets Demanding President Mursi's Resignation

A year after his inauguration as Egypt's first new president since 1981, millions of demonstrators throughout Egypt demanded President Mohammed Morsi step down in protests throughout the nation reminiscent of those that forced his predecessor Hosni Mubarak out of office.

Waving national flags and chanting "Get out!", a crowd of nearly 500,000 massed in and around Cairo's central Tahrir Square in by far the largest demonstration since the 2011 uprising that overthrew Mursi's predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.

"The people want the fall of the regime!" they shouted, echoing the Arab Spring rallying cry that brought down Mubarak - this time yelling it not against an ageing dictator but against the first elected leader in Egypt's 5,000-year recorded history.

Huge protest rallies continued late into the night in a mostly festive atmosphere.

While the main protests were peaceful, five people were shot dead in clashes in the Nile valley towns of Assiut and Beni Suef and the oasis town of Fayoum. The Health Ministry said more than 200 were injured in clashes in several provincial towns.

A military source said as many as 14 million people in this nation of 84 million took part in Sunday's demonstrations in sweltering heat. There was no independent way to verify that estimate, which seemed implausibly high, but the armed forces used helicopters to monitor the crowds.

Many demonstrators bellowed their anger at the Brotherhood, which they accuse of hijacking Egypt's revolution and using electoral victories to monopolize power and impose Islamic law.

Others, including some who said they had voted for Mursi, have been alienated by a deepening economic crisis and worsening personal security, aggravated by a political deadlock over which he has presided.

The veteran leaders of Egypt's secular, liberal and left-wing opposition, including former chief of the U.N. nuclear watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei and leftist presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, joined protest marches in Cairo.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters marched through the Mediterranean port of Alexandria, Egypt's second city, and large protests were reported in at least 20 towns around the country.
Once the sun went down, the number of protesters grew even further. In Cairo and Alexandria, people threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at Muslim Brotherhood offices. Throughout the weekend, those numbers were offset somewhat by pro-Morsi counterdemonstrators wearing hardhats and brandishing sticks.

Before the weekend's demonstrations, the opposition had gathered an estimated 22 million signatures calling for Morsi's ouster. The buildings housing the petition signatures and opposition party headquarters were attacked by arsonists earlier this month, although the signatures were unharmed.

Earlier in the week, a 21 year old American identified as Andrew Pochter was stabbed to death as he was watching an anti-government demonstration in Alexandria. Pochter's family said that he was in Egypt to teach English to children and was to attend Kenyon College in Ohio later on this year.

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