'People want to topple the regime': Egyptians protest on 2nd anniversary of revolution
CAIRO — Two years after Egypt's revolution began, the country's schism was on display Friday as the mainly liberal and secular opposition held rallies saying the goals of the pro-democracy uprising have not been met and denouncing Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
With the anniversary, Egypt is definitively in the new phase of its upheaval.
From the revolt that began Jan. 25, 2011 and led to the fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, the country has moved into a deeply divisive struggle between ruling Islamists, who say a string of election victories the past year gives them to right to reshape Egypt, and their opponents, who say Islamists are moving to take complete power.
Overshadowing their struggle is an economy in free-fall that threatens to fuel public discontent. The vital tourism sector has slumped, investment shriveled, foreign currency reserves have tumbled and prices are on the rise. More pain is likely in the coming months if the government implements unpopular new austerity measures.
"Today the Egyptian people continue their revolution," said Hamdeen Sabahi, a leading opposition leader who finished a close third in presidential elections held in June. "They are saying 'no' to the Brotherhood state ... We want a democratic constitution, social justice, to bring back the rights of the martyrs and guarantees for fair elections."
Tens of thousands massed in Cairo's Tahrir Square, where the 2011 uprising began, and outside Morsi's palace, with more heading to join them from other districts. Banners outside the palace proclaimed, "No to the corrupt Muslim Brotherhood government" and "Two years since the revolution, where is social justice?" Others demonstrated outside the state TV and radio building overlooking the Nile.
Similar if smaller crowds gathered in most of Egypt's main cities, including the Mediterranean cities of Alexandria. The protesters chanted the iconic slogans of the revolt against Mubarak, this time directed against Morsi — "Erhal! Erhal!" or "leave, leave" and "the people want to topple the regime."
Clashes broke out for a second day on some side streets near Tahrir and police fired tear gas to disperse the young men throwing stones. There were also clashes in Alexandria and Suez, and in the Delta town of Menouf protesters blocked off railway lines, disrupting train services to and from Cairo. The Alexandria clashes left 18 protesters injured, according to Mohammed Sultan, head of Egypt's ambulance services.
The immediate goal of the protesters is a show of strength to push Morsi to amend the constitution, which was pushed through by his Islamist allies and rushed through a national referendum. But more broadly, protesters are trying to show the extent of public anger against what they call the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, the organization Morsi hails from, which they say is taking over the state rather than setting up a broad-based democracy.
Protester Ehab Menyawi said he felt no personal animosity against the Brotherhood but opposed its approach toward Morsi as Egypt's first freely elected leader.
"The Brotherhood thinks that reform was achieved when their man came to power and that in itself is a guarantee for the end of corruption," he said as he marched from the upscale Cairo district of Mohandiseen to Tahrir with some 20,000 others.
Unlike in 2012, when both sides made a show of marking Jan. 25 — though, granted, not together — the Brotherhood stayed off the streets for Friday's anniversary. The group said it would honor the occasion with acts of public service, like treating the sick and planting trees. The Brotherhood's ultraconservative allies known as Salafis are also staying off the streets. Their absence may reduce, but not entirely remove, the possibility of violence.
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