Sunday’s massive protests in Egypt were unprecedented, of a scale not even seen during 2011’s Arab Spring.
The protesters aimed to show by sheer numbers that the country has irrevocably turned against [President Mohamed] Morsi, a year to the day after he was inaugurated as Egypt’s first freely elected president. But throughout the day and even up to midnight at the main rallying sites, fears of rampant violence did not materialize. Instead the mood was largely festive.
According to CBS News:
For weeks, Morsi’s supporters have depicted the planned protest as a plot by Mubarak loyalists. But their claims were undermined by the extent of Sunday’s rallies. In Cairo and a string of cities in the Nile Delta and on the Mediterranean coast, the protests topped even the biggest protests of the 2011’s 18-day uprising, including the day Mubarak quit, Feb. 11.
“Mubarak took only 18 days although he had behind him the security, intelligence and a large sector of Egyptians,” said Amr Tawfeeq, an oil company employee marching toward Ittihadiya with a Christian friend. Morsi “won’t take long. We want him out and we are ready to pay the price.”
At least 400 people did, many by getting shot. Up to a dozen may have died.
In the city of Assiut, a stronghold of Islamists, gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire on a protest in which tens of thousands were participating, killing one person, wounding four others and sending the crowd running.
The enraged protesters then marched on the nearby Freedom and Justice offices, where gunmen inside opened fire, killing two more, security officials said.
Two years ago, the protests of the Arab Spring caused a lot doubt and ambiguity among Western observers. You could sympathize with the Egyptian people’s desire to rid themselves of the thuggish Hosni Mubarak, while worrying that government power would fall into the hands of Allah-worshipping fundies — which it did. This time around, it’s easier to cheer on the protesters; virtually none were out in force yesterday claiming that the government wasn’t Islamist enough. That’s progress.