CAIRO – Egyptian security forces fired tear gas and protesters hurled stones and Molotov cocktails in a daylong demonstration on Thursday, raising fears of a violent anniversary of the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak.
Youth activists and opposition groups have called for large rallies on the anniversary today in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and in front of the presidential palace in the upscale suburb of Heliopolis.
The protests, which left dozens injured, began before dawn in central Cairo when protesters tried to tear down a cement wall built to prevent them from reaching the parliament and the Cabinet building. The street clashes continued after darkness fell on the Egyptian capital.
Three weeks of mass protests that erupted on Jan. 25, 2011, eventually forced Mubarak out of office.
Since then, Egypt has undergone a tumultuous transition under the interim leadership of military generals until the election last June of Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood group. His first six months in office were marked by political tensions, street protests and an economic crunch that sapped his popularity.
As the protests continued, Morsi visited the western city of Ismailia to inaugurate a maritime project, but he was received by activists who blocked a railway station, tore down the welcoming banners and issued a statement declaring that they were opposed to inaugurating new projects while there’s corruption in the railway system.
Later in the day, Morsi urged Egyptians to mark the anniversary peacefully.
“I call upon Egyptians to celebrate the revolution … with civilization and peacefully to preserve our nation, our institution, our souls, our streets and our sons,” he told a gathering in a speech meant to mark the birthday of Muslim Prophet Muhammad.
But die-hard fans of Egypt’s most popular soccer team, Ahly, who took part in the clashes, warned in a statement: “The price of blood is blood.” It was a reference to the deaths of many of their friends last year in a violent rampage at a soccer game that left 74 dead.
The soccer fans, known as Ultras, also called for mass protests on Saturday, the day a court is expected to rule on the fate of security officials being tried in connection with the deaths at the soccer game.