CAIRO - (Reuters/AFP) - Egyptian security forces fired bird shot and teargas to prevent supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi from marching on Sunday to the site of a protest camp that was destroyed two months ago, a Reuters witness said.
The crowd of about 100 people were students from Al-Azhar University, the historic seat of Sunni Muslim learning. They threw rocks at riot police stationed outside the gates of the university, and police threw the stones back.
The university is in the same Cairo suburb as the Rabaa al-Adawiya Mosque, scene of one of two pro-Morsi protest camps crushed by security forces on Aug. 14. Hundreds of protesters were killed.
“Rabaa Square is completely off-limits,” a security source said. “Protesters are not allowed to move inside it.” He said four students had been arrested.
Authorities have cracked down hard on Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood. The group was outlawed by a court order after the army overthrew Morsi and installed an interim government in July following massive street protests a year after his election. Brotherhood leaders, including Morsi, have been arrested on charges of inciting or taking part in violence.
Brotherhood supporters say they will keep protesting until the army-backed government falls. But demonstrations are far smaller than the ones that immediately followed Morsi’s downfall. The Interior Ministry said in a statement that security forces took action after 3,000 students blocked roads around the Al-Azhar campus. A few police trucks kept students from moving beyond the front entrance of the facility. “We want the return of legitimate rule to Egypt, we want the return of President Morsi” said Mohamed Magdi, a commerce student. “We are unarmed students. We just approached them and said ‘you are our police’ and then they attacked us.” The students had been protesting for the second day on campus in support of Morsi. Graffiti scrawled on university buildings condemned General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the army chief who toppled Morsi, as a murderer and traitor.
“We will take measures to continue studies even with the continuation of the demonstrations,” said Ibrahim el-Hadud, a university official.
The army rejects allegations from the Brotherhood that it deposed Morsi in a coup and says it was responding to the will of the people. The government refers to the Brotherhood as “terrorists” and does not distinguish between the movement and al Qaeda-affiliated groups in the lawless Sinai Peninsula who carry out almost daily attacks on security forces.
The Brotherhood describes itself as a peaceful movement.
Police fired teargas at students who pelted them with rocks during anti-army protest in Cairo’s Al-Azhar university, an AFP reporter and the interior ministry said.
About 3,000 students initially blocked the main Nasr road leading to the Islamic university’s campus, and clashed with police who arrived to persuade them to leave, the ministry said in a statement.
An AFP reporter said police later dispersed the students, who pressed their protest. The ministry said police fired teargas at demonstrators.
A security official said no casualties were reported in the clashes.
A similar demonstration took place in Cairo University where scuffles broke out between supporters and opponents of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, a security official said.
Islamists who reject the military-installed government have regularly staged protests against the army, which toppled Morsi on July 3 after millions took to the streets demanding his resignation.
More than 1,000 people, mostly Morsi’s backers, were killed in clashes in the ensuing crackdown on the former president’s Muslim Brotherhood movement.
Another 2,000 people, mostly Islamists, have been detained.
Morsi, held at an unknown location since his ouster, will stand trial next month over deadly clashes between his supporters and opponents outside his palace in December 2012.