Update: Security fires tear gas, water cannons on protesters at palace

Update: Security fires tear gas, water cannons on protesters at palace

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Fri, 08/02/2013 - 20:30

Security forces dispersed protesters in front of the Ettehadiya Presidential Palace with a barrage of tear gas and water cannons Friday evening.

Protesters retreated to Caliph Maamoun Street as armored vehicles and Central Security Forces troops were deployed to the area.

This comes after protesters set fire to one of the gates in front of the presidential palace, state-run news agency MENA reported, as demonstrations continued in Heliopolis as part of the nationwide "Friday of Departure" rallies against the Muslim Brotherhood and the president. 

As demonstrators, including some Black Bloc protesters, tore down the barbed wire gate in front of the palace’s Gate 4, others climbed the palace walls.

Protesters threw stones and fireworks into the palace courtyard, setting fire to a tree. Central Security Forces were notably absent at that time, and the republican guards initially did not move from their positions inside the palace, although some shot blanks into the air in an attempt to disperse the protesters.

Demonstrators chanted, “Down with the supreme guide’s rule,” and chanted for President Mohamed Morsy to leave office.

The number of protesters at the palace steadily increased into Friday evening as various marches from around Cairo arrived in Heliopolis.

Earlier on Friday afternoon, protesters blocked Merghany Street, sparking arguments with drivers in the area, 

Other demonstrators painted graffiti on the palace’s wall in honor of Mohamed al-Gendy, a Popular Current member from Tanta who was allegedly kidnapped and tortured to death after participating in protests commemorating the anniversary of the 25 January revolution.

A human chain was formed in front of the barbed wire set up by security forces at entrances to the palace to prevent fellow protesters from trying to tear it down, in an attempt to avoid violent clashes with the police.

Earlier in the afternoon, a march of dozens from Rabaa al-Adaweya Mosque in Nasr City arrived at the palace. They carried Egyptian flags as well as a large black banner reading, “The revolution continues.”

Republican guards withdrew from their posts in front of Gates 3 and 4 of the palace, retreating behind the walls to preempt possible clashes with protesters who began gathering in the area Friday morning.

Dozens of demonstrators started a march to the palace from Nour Mosque in Abbasseya after Friday prayers. Members of several political forces and revolutionary movements participated, including the Ultras Youth, the Constitution Party and the Arab Nasserist Party. Demonstrators raised banners demanding that President Mohamed Morsy step down and Egyptian flags, and chanted, “The people want to overthrow the regime,” and “Down with the supreme guide’s rule.”

Earlier in the day, Black Bloc protesters issued a statement calling on citizens to demonstrate in front of the palace under the slogan, “retaliation  or departure.”

The Black Bloc is a previously unknown group that emerged during protests commemorating the anniversary of the 25 January revolution. They wear black masks and outfits and largely refuse to talk to the media.

Members of the group marched to the presidential palace Friday morning, stating that their only demand is the downfall of Morsy’s administration.

Before the march, calm prevailed in front of the palace in the morning as security troops forced protesters holding a sit-in there to move their tents. Republican guards placed barbed wire in front of Gate 3 and Gate 4 of the palace, and filled the garden by the Heliopolis Club with water so that protesters couldn’t relocate their tents there.

Although traffic police disappeared from the streets around the palace, traffic flowed smoothly. Some nearby shops closed out of fear of clashes.

Opposition forces led by the National Salvation Front are holding mass demonstrations across the country today, which they are calling “Friday of Departure.” In Cairo, marches are planned to the palace from Nour Mosque, Fateh Mosque, Esteqama Mosque, Sayeda Zeinab Mosque and Shubra Square after Friday prayers. The protesters demand the end of Muslim Brotherhood rule, the dismissal of Prime Minister Hesham Qandil’s Cabinet, and the trial of Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim for the killing, torture and illegal imprisonment of protesters.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm