Update: Microbuses set ablaze near Tahrir, Brotherhood members chased from square

Update: Microbuses set ablaze near Tahrir, Brotherhood members chased from square

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Fri, 12/10/2012 - 00:03

An anti-Brotherhood vibe prevailed in Tahrir Square on Friday evening, following clashes between members of the group and other protesters throughout the day.

Protesters in the square appear to have driven out the Muslim Brotherhood youth with whom they had been fighting throughout the day, eyewitnesses reported.

As protesters chased the Brotherhood members from the square, they chanted, "We will continue the path as free revolutionaries, we will continue the path as free revolutionaries."

Two microbuses used earlier to transfer MB members to the square were set ablaze, sending smoke all over the Egyptian Museum area. Protesters took pictures of the burning buses, while chanting anti-Brotherhood slogans.

Rock throwing battles and protests had continued into Friday evening in and around Tahrir Square after a day of intermittent skirmishes. Witnesses report seeing fighting and clashes on every street leading into the square, while the police or security forces never appeared on the scene.

The fighting marks a dramatic pro-Brotherhood, anti-Brotherhood polarization. Anti-President Mohamed Morsy protesters were chanting "Sell the revolution, Badie (the Muslim Brotherhood supreme guide)," or the occasional "Fuck Morsy," while members of the Freedom and Justice Party chanted, "There are men behind Morsy."

Others chanted slogans related to the recent Battle of the Camel verdict, where all defendants were acquitted and families of the martyrs shouted slogans calling for the toppling of the regime, apparently a suggestion that the ousted Mubarak regime is still ruling the country. They also chanted "People want to purge the judiciary."

A wounded young man was seen being severely beaten and dragged into the square by other protesters. Occasionally one group of protesters would charge at another, causing widespread confusion and chaos. Eyewitnesses reported that in the midst of rock throwing battes, they were often unsure of where the rocks were coming from, or who the other protesters were targeting.

One middle-aged man told Egypt Independent that he couldn't understand what was happening, and that the fighting must stop; when a rock hit his arm, however, he then joined in the rock throwing.

Another young protester told Egypt Independent that the situation is extremely chaotic, stating, "When you throw a rock, does it know who is a Muslim Brother and who isn't?"

Earlier this afternoon witnesses reported that the Muslim Brotherhood removed its stage from Tahrir Square, claiming that they were insulted during the Friday prayers.

Several protests with different aims occupied the square today. The "Judgement Day" was originally organized to protest what leftist activists call Morsy's poor performance in his first 100 days in office as well as the Constituent Assembly, but Islamists were also protesting Wednesday's verdict in the Battle of the Camel case, which saw 24 former Mubarak regime figures acquitted of all charges.

The political differences between the groups of protesters led to waves of scuffles between opposing groups. 

Earlier today the Ministry of Health had reported a total of 12 injured, but early this evening Mohamed Sultan, head of the Egyptian Ambulance Authority, said in a statement that the number of injured transferred to Mounira Hospital had risen to 19 by the late afternoon.

Injuries included incision wounds to the face and the head as a result of being hit by stones. Sultan said he expects the number of injured to increase throughout the evening. The authority stationed 42 ambulances around the square.

Head of Mounira Public Hospital Mohamed Shawky described the case of protester Ahmed Omar Abdel Elsamad, 37, who was admitted with a serious injury to his eye. The other cases have been treated for minor injuries and discharged, he said.

Earlier this afternoon, fistfights broke out between Muslim Brotherhood youth and members of the Constitution Party and the Popular Current Party at Al-Istiqama Mosque in Giza Square, after pro-Morsy demonstrators chanted slogans to disrupt the chants of the anti-Morsy protesters. 

The anti-Brotherhood protesters chanted, "Down with the supreme guide rule," accusing the Brotherhood's leader of betraying the revolution. The Brotherhood youth responded by chanting, "We dismissed the public prosecutor, go see what you can do with the judiciary," calling their rivals "traitors and spies."

The Brotherhood youth raised their shoes against their opponents, which then sparked scuffles that were broken up by other protesters.

A march then left from the mosque to Tahrir Square, led by the Constitution Party, the Popular Current and the April 6 Movement, and joined en route by hundreds of Cairo University students. 

Around the same time, another march left a Dokki neighborhood in Giza for Tahrir, joining members of the April 6 Youth Movement, the National Association for Change and other political forces.

The demonstrators chanted slogans against Morsy's Renaissance Project, calling it fake.

"Oh Mubarak you can rest, Morsy will continue the path," and "Bread, freedom, dissolving the Constituent Assembly," the protesters chanted.

Minor clashes between protesters began earlier in the day, when members of the Revolutionary Socialists group tried to prevent Brotherhood members from entering the square via Mohamed Mahmoud Street as they chanted slogans in support of Morsy. The two groups threw rocks at each other until other protesters seperated them.

A mass of Brotherhood members then assembled at the Mohamed Mahmoud entrance to Tahrir and, in turn, blocked their opponents from coming back into the square.

During his Friday prayer sermon today, Omar Makram Mosque imam Mazhar Shahien called on his congregation to break up the ongoing clashes between pro and anti-Morsy protesters.

Also this afternoon, satellite TV channel Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr showed protesters dismantling the stage set up in the square which they claim belongs to the Popular Current party recently established by former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi. This was the second time today the stage was attacked.

One of the vandalizers spoke to the channel, justifying the attack by saying that people on the stage had been shouting anti-Morsy slogans, but today's protests were supposed to be against the Battle of the Camel acquittals.

Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members from across the nation streamed into Tahrir Square starting in the early afternoon. Buses and microbuses coming from different governorates lined up near the square, while Brotherhood youth stood guard at its entrances. At the end of Friday prayers, a march kicked off from Omar Makram Mosque to the square.

The protesters chanted slogans such as, "We either bring their rights or die just like them," "Retribution, retribution, our brothers were shot dead," and "Say it, don't be afraid, the general prosecutor must leave."

They also raised banners reading, "Where is Sharia, where is religion?" and "Where is the right of the martyr?"

The anti-Morsy protesters had already begun to assemble in Tahrir at 9 am on Friday.

Anti-Muslim Brotherhood banners declaring the protesters' demands were hung in the middle of the square and several street vendors also began to gather there, but traffic was not disrupted.

Wafd Party members raised a banner that read "The people want a Constituent Assembly that belongs to the revolution, a revolutionary constitution. Egypt is for all; the majority changes, while the constitution remains. We want a Constituent assembly that represents all segments of the nation."

Other banners read: "Morsy's achievements: accumulated garbage, begging to the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and the United States, acquittal of all revolutionaries' murderers  ... Brotherhoodizing armed forces, police and state institutions ... You are only the president of the group."

"A stage was prepared in front of the tourism offices and a statement on the objectives of Judgement Day was distributed. The president was supposed to be reflective of the will of the revolution, but the final outcome for his 100-day plan was shameful. We are on the verge of reproducing the Mubarak regime," said Mohamed Arnab, secretary general of Wafd Party's youth committee in Cairo.

The stage belongs to Mahrousa Youth Movement, the Coalition of Revolutionary Forces, the Karama Party, the Wafd Party youth, the Revolutionary Socialists, the National Front for Peaceful Change, the Second Revolution of Anger and the Popular Conference Party, said Arnab.

The demonstrations in Cairo and across the governorates were organized against Wednesday's acquittal of all the defendants in the Battle of the Camel case, the new constitution being drafted by the Constituent Assembly, and the perceived failure of President Mohamed Morsy’s 100-day plan.

The Union of Revolutionary Youth first launched the call to demonstrate against Morsy’s 100-day platform in September. In addition, the union called for protests demanding  the dissolution and reformation of the Constituent Assembly and justice for the martyrs and protesters injured during and after the January 2011 revolution.

The union soon won the support of the National Association for Change, the Constitution Party, the Egyptian Democratic Social Party, the Tagammu Party and others.

The Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi-oriented Nour Party and Salafi Front joined the protests to denounce the Battle of the Camel case acquittals. Former officials from ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s regime had been accused of inciting the killing protesters in Tahrir Square when thugs mounted on camels and horses attacked protesters on 2 February 2011, killing dozens.

The Ultras Ahlawy also said they would stage a march on Friday to the presidential palace in Heliopolis to demand that all football activity in Egypt be halted until justice was won for those killed in the Port Said Stadium massacre last February. They also called for the dismissal of corrupt leaders in the football leagues and federations.

Leftist leader Kamal Khalil told Al-Masry Al-Youm that by joining the protests against the Battle of the Camel ruling, the Brotherhood was simply trying to divert attention away from protests against the new constitution.

"The Brotherhood is the ruling authority now, they were the ones who called for a reconciliation with former regime symbols ... and now they are calling for retribution?" Khalil said.

Other demands from protesters today include setting the minimum wage at LE1,200, reversing the Morsy administration’s decision to end government subsidies on essential commodities, eliminating corruption in state institutions and putting an end to the country’s dependence on foreign aid and loans.