Marchers in coastal cities protest against Morsy
CAIRO — Egypt's main opposition bloc rejected a call for dialogue by President Mohamed Morsy as a fourth day of unrest rocked the most populous Arab nation.
Street battles erupted here and elsewhere as protesters recalled 2011's “Day of Rage” that helped to topple the previous regime.
“We came on this bridge two years ago to topple Hosni Mubarak, and we are here today to topple Mohamed Morsy,” said Mustafa Abdel Dey, 25, an unemployed tourism worker. Standing on the Qasr el Nil bridge leading to Tahrir Square, he watched youths and police clash along the Nile River between two upscale hotels.
As white clouds of tear gas swirled, Dey plugged his nostrils with tissues. He once worked on a cruise ship between Luxor and Aswan, he said, “but now there is no work.”
Like many here, he blamed Morsy and the ruling Muslim Brotherhood for the collapse of a once-flourishing tourism industry.
Opposition leaders of the National Salvation Front called for nationwide protests on Friday against Morsy's declaration of states of emergency in violence-torn Port Said, Suez and Ismailia.
In those three coastal cities, marchers chanting against Morsy and the Brotherhood defied a 9 p.m. curfew while soldiers stood watching.
In Cairo, thousands marched on parliament, whose Islamist-dominated upper house authorized the military to arrest civilians.
They were driven back by tear gas, but not before torching a police van.
Ahmed Murad, a science teacher and longtime political activist, denounced Morsy's emergency declaration as “a diabolical plan” to separate the Suez Canal area from the rest of Egypt.
“The Brotherhood would use it as a cover to bring in income for its benefit, to insure their control over Egypt,” Murad, 45, said.
Morsy met with leaders of the country's Islamist parties to discuss solutions to the spiraling unrest that has killed more than 50 and injured more than 1,100.
National Salvation Front leader Mohamed El Baradei refused to meet until Morsy establishes a national unity government, amends a controversial constitution enacted in December, rescinds the legislative power of parliament's upper house – known as the Shura Council – and takes responsibility for the unrest.
“We support any dialogue if it has a clear agenda that can shepherd the nation to the shores of safety,” said Baradei, a former U.N. atomic-weapons inspector. He was flanked by former foreign minister Amr Moussa and former leftist presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi.
In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney condemned the violence and said, “We look for all Egyptians to express themselves peacefully.”
Yet as fighting continued late into the night, many protesters grimly vowed to press on with a revolution that they say was subverted by Egypt's military, then hijacked by the Brotherhood.
Sheikh Shahin, religious leader of Tahrir Square's Omar Makram mosque, told Egyptian reporters that Morsy's emergency declaration is the start of “an era of dictatorship.”
Shahin, widely known as “the protest imam,” said the 2011 revolution is being reversed and compared Morsy's actions to Mubarak-era repression.
Betsy Hiel is the foreign correspondent for Trib Total Media. Email her at email@example.com.