Unhampered by the low turnout, thousands of protesters declared an open sit-in outside the Etihadia presidential palace in Heliopolis Friday night. The demonstrators, which numbered about 5,000 at the peak of the protest, were out protesting against President Mohamed Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood.
“We are starting an open, peaceful sit-in until Morsy leaves. The Brotherhood has hijacked the revolution without playing any role in it,” Khaled Ali, a journalist at the state-owned Akhbar Al-Youm newspaper told Daily News Egypt outside the palace.
Ali said the Brotherhood “have blood on their hands” because they killed Egyptian soldiers in Rafah so that Morsy could remove the leadership of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
Unknown gunmen attacked Egyptian troops stationed at the border with Israel in Sinai on 5 August, killing 16 and injuring seven. The identity of the attackers is still unknown, but they have not been linked with the Muslim Brotherhood.
“I am worried about my son. Under [former President Hosni] Mubarak he would go to jail if he upsets the authorities. Now under the Brotherhood he would have his arm or neck chopped off,” said Ali.
Barbed wires and dozens of soldiers from the Central Security Forces were stationed all over the surroundings of the palace since early morning, blocking off all routes leading to it. There were 15 CSF trucks situated in Roxy alone.
At noon, protesters numbered in the dozens near the palace entrance at the Roxy area while hundreds gathered at the manasa area where former President Anwar El-Sadat was assassinated.
“I am here today to protect Egypt from the Ikhwanisation [“Brother-ing] of the state. In two years’ time all Egyptian youth will be members of the Muslim Brotherhood simply because the new Minister of Youth is one of the MB’s high ranking members,” Raafat Helmy, an accountant protesting in front of the palace entrance at Roxy, told Daily News Egypt.
“They will use youth centres and conferences to recruit all the young people into the Brotherhood then when they graduate from college they will be awarded all the important positions in the state,” he added.
Helmy said that the protesters were demanding that Morsy sever all ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and that the Brotherhood should either be dissolved or apply for legal status.
When asked about the low turnout Helmy said that the Brotherhood had succeeded in scaring people out of protesting but that he was sure the majority of Egyptians rejected the group.
“Out of 50 million Egyptians eligible to vote, only 13 million elected Morsy. Five of those 13 million only voted for him because they rejected [presidential candidate Ahmed] Shafiq,” said Helmy.
At the manasa, Mahmoud, a young man in his 20s, said he was there for many reasons.
“I want to tell the Muslim Brotherhood they are not above anyone and that they also make mistakes; I’m protesting against the Constituent Assembly which I find sectarian and unrepresentative of Egyptian society; and I believe [Prime Minister Hesham] Qandil’s cabinet is also sectarian and is there to help the Muslim Brotherhood not the Egyptian people,” he told Daily News Egypt.
It was only after the sun set that the numbers started picking up. At Roxy the dozens became hundreds while word went around that a march from manasa, led by former People’s Assembly Member of Parliament Mohamed Abu Hamed who called for the protest, was making its way to join them.
The march, which numbered in the thousands, arrived at around 6 pm and joined with the Roxy supporters. The protesters decided to march again to the other palace entrance near the Salah Salem tunnel, which they reached at around 7:15 pm.
It was there that a number of incidents occurred. The protesters, frustrated at what they saw as media bias against them, were already weary of journalists. At around 9 pm a journalist was apprehended, manhandled, and his laptop computer smashed.
Some of the protesters disapproved of such actions, however. When they confronted the man who broke the laptop he pulled out a knife before he was chased away.
At around 10 pm some protesters were able to remove the barbed wire and were about to break into the palace which induced panic among the rest of the group.
The wire was promptly placed back into place and another group of protesters formed a human chain around it, chanting “peaceful” and “the people, police and army are one hand.” The police made no response to the incident.
The protesters declared their sit in at 9 pm and two trucks, one carrying tents and the other carrying food and water, made their way in front of the place.
Abu Hamed urged the protesters not to block any roads and to remain peaceful at all times.