Police fired salvos of tear gas and birdshot at rock-throwing protesters in Cairo yesterday as popular anger over a deadly football riot spilled over into a second day of street violence that left at least four people dead and more than 1,500 injured nationwide.
The protesters blame the police for failing to prevent bloodshed after a match in the city of Port Said on Wednesday that left 74 people dead. The violence – the football world’s worst in 15 years – also has fuelled frustration with the generals who took power after the uprising that ousted president Hosni Mubarak last February.
Egyptians furious over the bloodshed took to the streets in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and several Nile Delta cities.
The biggest demonstrations were in the capital where protesters wearing helmets and gas masks fought their way through streets thick with smoke from tear gas towards the interior ministry, a frequent target for demonstrations because it is responsible for the police.
Many protesters have suggested the authorities either instigated the Port Said violence or intentionally allowed it to happen to retaliate against the football fans known as Ultras who played a key role in clashes with security forces during the uprising that toppled Mubarak.
Thousands of people rallied to condemn the security forces for failing to stop the Port Said bloodshed. They also called for early presidential elections and demanded the army speed up the transfer of power to a civilian administration.
Meanwhile, some 1,500 protesters marched to the defence ministry, chanting “the people want to execute the marshal,” referring to Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of the ruling military council.
One protester in Cairo was killed after being hit by birdshot at close range, a volunteer doctor said. He said four protesters lost an eye from birdshot, and that his field hospital close to Tahrir Square was overwhelmed with the wounded.
Two protesters also were killed in Suez by police who opened fire, said health officials.
About 3,000 people demonstrated in front of the Suez police headquarters, prompting police to fire tear gas and live ammunition, witnesses said.
In Alexandria, thousands of people, some of them carrying photos of those killed in the football riot, protested in front of the city’s military headquarters, while in Port Said, hundreds of protesters rallied in the streets to condemn the attacks on the fans. Some of the demonstrators held banners that read: “Port Said is innocent, this is a cheap conspiracy.”
The interior ministry urged the protesters in a statement “to listen to the sound of wisdom ... at these critical moments” and prevent the spread of chaos.
Many in the public and in the newly-elected parliament blamed the new leadership for letting the riot happen.
The violence in Port Said began after home team Al-Masry pulled off a 3-1 win over Cairo’s Al-Ahly, Egypt’s most powerful club. Al-Masry fans stormed the field, rushing past lines of police to attack Al-Ahly fans.
Survivors described a nightmarish scene in the stadium. Police stood by doing nothing, they said, as Al-Masry fans attacked Al-Ahly supporters, stabbing them and throwing them off stands.