Thousands gather outside Ahly Club to protest Port Said violence

Thousands of protesters gathered outside the headquarters of the Ahly Club in Zamalek Thursday to protest the deaths of at least 71 people in violence at a football match in Port Said Wednesday night. The crowd plans to march to the People’s Assembly later in the day.

Supporters of Ahly, Egypt’s leading football club and the visiting team in the Wednesday match, are presumed to make up the majority of the deaths in the Port Said violence.

Two women at the protest were crying after learning that their relative, Islam Hamdy, 16, was killed at the match.

Some protesters said they wanted to keep the demonstration outside of the club apolitical and resented anti-government protesters attempting to politicize their grief. Some angry Ahly supporters chanted that the people of Port Said are thugs.

However, many protesters also turned their ire on the military junta running Egypt and the cabinet that it appointed.

“Where was the Interior Ministry yesterday?” asked Hany Hassan, an administrator. The military council and the cabinet “keep saying that there is a third party involved, but we just want to have an Interior Ministry capable of doing its job.”

Eyewitnesses to the violence have said that security forces stood by as the Port Said fans swarmed the pitch and then attacked players and Ahly supporters. Earlier on Thursday, two parliamentary committees called for the removal of the current interior minister.

Some protesters believe that the deaths in Port Said are part of an organized conspiracy.

“There’s clear involvement from security bodies and being headed by members of the old regime, with the military council colluding with Mubarak,” said Mahmoud Muktar, a hotel manager who has supported Ahly for 30 years.

Fans of Zamalek, Ahly’s traditional rival, also joined the demonstration, raising their club’s flag alongside that of Ahly.

A march of about 2,000 people joined the protest in the early afternoon chanting, “Down with military rule!” and “We will either get their rights or die like them.”

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