Police forces protest, say they're tired of the blame
CAIRO — After months of battling with angry young protesters, many in Egypt's police forces say they have had enough.
Strikes and protests spread around the country Friday by police units frustrated with being blamed for deadly crackdowns on protesters and accusing Islamist President Mohamed Morsy of using them to fight his enemies. In at least 10 of the country's 29 provinces, some units sealed their stations with chains, some calling for the removal of their boss, the interior minister, appointed by Morsy.
In past days, angry riot police locked their top commander in their camp for hours. Others refused to be deployed in clashes with street protesters in Nile Delta cities. Police disobeyed orders to secure Morsy's motorcade route from his palace to his home in eastern Cairo, to guard his family home in the Delta, or to guard the headquarters of his Muslim Brotherhood in the capital.
The wave of police discontent adds a new layer to Egypt's turmoil and sense of breakdown in state institutions. In a sign of the possible repercussions of the disarray, a hardline Islamist group announced its members would take up policing duties in the southern province of Assiut because of strikes by local security forces.
Since late January, cities around the country have been hit by relentless street protests, mainly directed against Morsy and the Brotherhood. Near daily, the demonstrations have turned into clashes with police, resulting in the killing of around 70 protesters. Each death has increased public anger against the security forces.
Some protests have turned into stone-throwing attacks on security agency buildings, and many protesters accuse Morsy of giving a green light to police to use excessive force. Their outrage has been further stoked by reports of torture and abduction of some activists by security agents.
Not all police were joining the strikes. Protesters continued to clash Friday with riot police in Cairo, the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and the Nile Delta city of Mahalla el-Kubra, leaving dozens injured.
Striking police accuse the Brotherhood of trying to take over the Interior Ministry, in charge of police, by infusing it with its sympathizers.
“We hit the bottom and we are fed up. The ministry is falling apart and no one is listening,” said Capt. Mohammed Shalabi, who led a group of officers in a sit-in in front of Media City on the outskirts of Cairo.
“Our demands are no to politicization of the ministry, which means no to the Brotherhoodization of the ministry. We are making a pledge to stay away from politics,” he said.