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Question of the Day
In Port Said, a city that for weeks has been in open rebellion against the Islamist president, several hundred people, many of them relatives of the defendants, gathered outside the local government offices to vent their anger. They chanted slogans against Morsi’s government and the verdicts.
Some people in a cafe watching the verdict live on TV hit their heads in frustration, while others broke down and wept. Some said they can live with the verdict because an appeal leaves room for hope.
“There’s still an appeal process. God willing, our rights will be restored,” said Islam Ezzeddin, a local soccer fan. “We are not thugs. I hope to God when there’s an appeal, that we feel we live in a country of law and justice.”
Several protesters in Port Said, a strategic city at the Mediterranean end of the Suez Canal, sought to disrupt shipping in the vital waterway by releasing small speedboats into the traffic lanes, although the effort failed to disrupt shipping. Others set fire to tires on the city’s dock to prevent ships from coming in, but that again was quickly abandoned.
A spokesman for the Suez Canal Authority, Tareq Hasanein, told Egypt’s official MENA news agency that shipping in the international waterway was proceeding normally, with 41 vessels transiting the canal on Saturday.
However, the national railways chief, Hussein Zakaria, ordered trains headed to Port Said to terminate their services at Ismailiya, another Suez Canal city south of Port Said. He said the measure was taken out of fear for the safety of passengers.
Port Said has been the center of the heaviest violence in Egypt’s latest wave of unrest. The ongoing turmoil began on Jan. 25, when hundreds of thousands across the country marked the second anniversary of the start of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak’s regime.
Cairo, the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, and several cities in the Nile Delta north of the capital have all been swept up in the unrest as well.
During clashes between police and protesters the past week that killed eight people, Port Said also saw dangerous frictions between police and the military. Army troops trying to break up the clashes at one point fired over the heads of police forces, which had been shooting tear gas in their direction.
At least some of the anger city residents feel for the police was defused on Friday, when police handed over security control in the city to the military.
No police could be seen anywhere in Port Said on Saturday. A military helicopter hovered overhead and army checkpoints were set up on main streets.
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