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Thousands marched on Friday through Port Said, located at the Canal’s Mediterranean end, pumping their fists and chanting, “Leave, leave, Morsi.” They threatened to escalate pressure with civil disobedience and a work stoppage at the vital Suez Canal authority if their demand for punishment of those responsible for protester death is not met.

“The people want the Republic of Port Said,” protesters chanted, voicing a wide sentiment among residents that they are fed up of negligence and mistreatment by central government and that they want to virtual independence.

Buses brought protesters from the two other Suez Canal cities of Suez and Ismailia to join the Port Said rallies.

Friday marked the first anniversary of a mass soccer riot in Port Said that left 74 people dead, mostly fans of Al-Ahly, Egypt‘s most popular soccer team, which was playing a local Port Said team, Al-Masry.

The past weekend’s violence in Port Said was sparked when a court convicted 21 people, mostly locals, in the soccer deaths, a verdict residents saw as unjust and political. Over the next few days, around 40 people were killed in the city in unrest that saw security forces firing on a funeral.

Egypt‘s main opposition political grouping, the National Salvation Front, called for Friday’s protests in Cairo, demanding Morsi form a national unity government and amend the constitution, moves they say would prevent the Islamist from governing solely in the interest of his Muslim Brotherhood group.

“The policies of the president and the Muslim Brotherhood are pushing the country to the brink,” the opposition said in a statement.

However, the call came a day after the Front held a meeting with Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood under the aegis of Egypt‘s premier Islamic institution, Al-Azhar, in their first ever meeting. They and other politicians signed a joint statement denouncing violence.

The meeting appeared to have caused rifts within the opposition, with some saying the Front had handed the Brotherhood the high ground by signing a statement that seemed to focus on protester violence and made no mention of police use of excessive force or explicitly talk of political demands.

“Al-Azhar’s initiative talks too broadly about violence as if it’s the same to kill a person or break a window and makes no difference between defensive violence and aggressive violence, offering a political cover to expand the repression, detention, killing and torture by the hands of police for the authority’s benefit,” read a joint statement by 70 activists, liberal politicians, actors and writers.

“The initiative didn’t represent the core of the problem and didn’t offer solutions but came to give more legitimacy to the existing authority,” it added.

Those who attended the Thursday’s rare meeting between Egypt‘s rival political camps defended the anti-violence initiative.

Egypt‘s leading pro-democracy advocate Mohammed ElBaradei and a Front leader described allegations that the Front is making political compromises them as “intentional attempt to split the ranks.”

“We toppled down Mubarak regime with a peaceful revolution. We insist on achieving the goals the same way whatever the sacrifices and the barbaric suppression tactics,” the Nobel peace Laureate tweeted.

Ahmed Maher, co-founder of April 6 group which led the anti-Mubarak uprising, said in a tweet: “I am against violence as a solution.” An opposition party leader Ahmed Said said in a statement, “no one can say no to an initiative to stop violence.”