On Monday afternoon, supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi set up barricades around Tayaran Street, which lies between the Rabea al-Adaweya Mosque sit-in and the Republican Guards headquarters, which only earlier that morning had been the scene of horrific violence.
Starting around 4 am Monday morning, more than fifty people were killed and hundreds injured in clashes between security forces and Morsi supporters at the Republican Guards Officers Club, which left protesters with a deep sense of fury and an even more defiant will to continue their demonstrations until “legitimacy” is restored.
For them, this means restoring Morsi to office after he was deposed by an army ultimatum that was ostensibly issued to appease millions of his opponents, who took to the streets starting on June 30 to demand the Islamist president’s ouster.
In the week since his removal, both sides have clung steadfast to their political positions, resulting in deadly confrontations across the country between Morsi’s supporters and detractors.
On Monday, however, pro-Morsi protesters say it was the army that directly opened fire on their rally — a claim that has been denied by security forces, who blame protesters for attacking them first.
Many of the injured were transferred to field hospitals around Rabea Mosque, where some solemn protesters’ spirits were palpably broken, while others were angrily mourning.
“This blood will be the fuel of the revolution,” says Dessouki, a translator. “What happened yesterday is a crime; nobody expected that the army would shoot us.”
Dessouki says allegations that the protesters started the violence don’t make sense.
“The people that were protesting at the Republican Guards [headquarters] were peaceful,” he says. “How can I go to engage in a fight while I am taking my daughter and my son with me?”
Walaa, a professor at Cairo University, says she only visited the protests occasionally, but that after these deadly events she will now join the sit-in.
“When I found out what happened, it made me so angry. I will stay here until I die,” she declares.
Walaa feels that Morsi supporters are not allowed to express themselves as freely as his opponents.
“I’m so depressed about what happened. Even if Morsi is not a good person, this was not the way to make him go,” she says. “When people went to Tahrir and Ettehadiya [Presidential Palace] to protest against Morsi, they didn’t die.”
Earlier in the day, numbers around the mosque were in the thousands, and the chanting was muted, with only a few dozen demonstrators in front of the stage. There, several public figures were declared to be “traitors,” including Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, reform leader Mohamed ElBaradei, leftist presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi and Coptic Pope Tawadros. By evening, numbers had swelled to the tens of thousands.
Protesters called out the Salafi Nour Party for not responding to Morsi’s ouster. The party has so far chosen to stay on the periphery of the street movement, and had been at the negotiating table to choose the country’s new government and prime minister. Until Monday, that is, when Nour withdrew from discussions as a form of protest against what the party`s spokesperson called the “rivers of Egyptian blood” spilled by the army.
When the person leading the chants at the sit-in was told of the Nour Party’s latest stance, he said, “It took them long enough to respond."
Mohamed al-Beltagy, a leading member of the Freedom and Justice Party, said that “what Egypt witnessed today at the massacre that cost the lives of more than fifty martyrs, and one thousand injured, is a black day in Sisi’s history.”
In a report published on the FJP’s website, Beltagy said that there were many honorable members of the Republican Guards who opened fire Monday morning, but without “targeting their Egyptian brothers’ chests.”
He added that “honorable citizens will continue the sit-in until legitimacy is restored.”
[This article was originally published on Mada Masr.]