Egyptian Police Clash With Protesters Before Rallies

Egyptian police clashed with protesters in Port Said for a third day, as renewed protests were planned in Cairo and other cities today.

Police fired tear gas and protesters hurled firebombs around the security headquarters in the Suez Canal city. Members of the armed forces were attempting to form a “human wall” to protect the building, the state-run Middle East News Agency said. Ambulances ferried away an unspecified number of people suffering from suffocation, the state-run Ahram Gate reported.

Rallies have been called by the opposition Egyptian Popular Current for today. The turmoil is marring Egypt’s transition to democracy after the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak, and is battering the economy.

“There is a state of anger at the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood and at the deterioration of the economic situation,” said Emad Gad, deputy director of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, and a former lawmaker. “Using the security apparatus to respond to the demands of people will lead to an escalation. The response must be political and economic.”

Opponents of President Mohamed Mursi accuse him of advancing the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood, which nominated him for office, while failing to end police abuses and other grievances that fueled the 2011 revolt. Mursi’s supporters say the demonstrations are hampering economic recovery and stabilization efforts.

‘Confused Handling’

The main opposition bloc, the National Salvation Front, said today in a statement it “warns against the continuation of wasting the blood of Egyptians in Port Said” and other cities “amid the arrogance and the confused handling of the regime.”

The bloc reiterated its decision to boycott legislative polls scheduled to start in April, saying “it will not deceive the Egyptian people or take part in a fake democratic process.”

The latest wave of unrest in Port Said began on March 3 when the families of prisoners held in connection with soccer violence heard their relatives were being transferred to another location, MENA said. At least five people, including some police officers, were killed.

Trouble flared in Port Said in January after 21 people were sentenced to death for their roles in the nation’s worst sporting violence in 2012. Dozens of people were killed when fans from the Port Said-based Al Masry club rushed their stands as police forces stood by.

Tensions have been increasing as a March 9 verdict hearing in the case approaches.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mariam Fam in Cairo at mfam1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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