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17 Feb, 2013 19:19

Thousands march in Egypt’s Port Said demand ‘retribution’ for riot deaths

Thousands of people have taken part in several protests in the Egyptian port city of Port Said, as part of a planned campaign of civil disobedience to demand justice for the deaths of dozens of residents in last month’s clashes with police.

The campaign is being spearheaded by soccer fans, who call themselves the Ultras Green Eagles, and are allayed to the city’s Masry football club. They converged on the provincial governor’s office to try and rally support of government employees, reportedly with some success, with workers responding to protesters’ calls. The marchers also disrupted operations at the main telephone exchange and sent students home from several schools. There was also a separate protest on Sunday by hundreds of high school students and teachers mourning Ahmed Sami, a student who was killed during last month’s clashes. There has been a spate of protest and violence in Port Said since a court ruling on January 26th sentencing 21 people to death, many of them football fans, for their part in last year’s Port Said stadium disaster, which killed at least 79 people and injured more than 1,000. Most of them were visiting fans from Cairo’s Al-Ahly team. The violence was started by Masry fans and directed at Al-Ahly supporters, who tried to run away. However, most people in Egypt view the riots as politically motivated. Last month’s verdict triggered riots in the city which left at least 40 people dead and 250 injured. With many Masry fans as well as Port Said residents feeling that they were made scapegoats for the stadium disaster. According toa statement released by the Ultras Green Eagles last week Sunday’s marches are designed to, “realize justice for the martyrs of Port Said, hold police officers involved in the death of unarmed protestors accountable, formally include Port Said’s slain protestors among the ‘martyrs of Egypt’s revolution,’ and prevent the politicization of the ongoing trial.” However, political observers in Egypt doubt that their campaign will be successful. “I don’t expect the move to gain any momentum given the lack of genuine coordination with various political forces, labor unions and economic institutions. Calls [for civil disobedience] should have included other political and social demands rather than simply restricting them to demands for Port Said’s martyrs,” Ragy Babers, a labor activist and Port Said Doctor’s Syndicate member told Al-Ahram, an Arabic language news website.