Egypt's Morsi Declares State Of Emergency

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has declared a state of emergency after a deadly bout of violence over the weekend left at least 50 dead in three cities the Suez Canal.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning. Just under two years after Egyptian protesters overthrew their government, Egypt's new government faces spreading protests. These demonstrations have led to violence near the Suez Canal; and they've prompted Egypt's new president, Mohammed Morsi, to do what former Egyptian presidents used to do - declare a state of emergency. NPR's Leila Fadel is covering this story. Hi, Leila.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Hi. How are you?

INSKEEP: OK, thanks very much. Where are you today?

FADEL: Well, we just arrived in Port Said, which has been the city of, arguably, the most violence. At least 37 people have been killed here, all set off by death sentences of 21 soccer fans on Saturday; people feeling that they have no faith in the judiciary, supporters of these young men saying this is an unfair, politicized verdict and taking to the streets every day.

INSKEEP: Let's remember what this is all about, Leila Fadel. You said soccer fans - there was violence at a soccer game, is that correct?

FADEL: Yes. Last year, after a soccer game, 74 people were killed in riots. It was largely blamed on the government; the government was blamed for negligence, allowing it to happen. And really, this court that made this decision on Saturday was in trouble, either way. People were saying in Cairo, if the full extent of the law was not served, they would set Cairo on fire. And in Port Said, the supporters of these young soccer fans who were convicted are saying, how is this justice? How is this fair, to scapegoat these young men for something that they can't control?

You know, this is also indicative of general lack of trust in Egypt's institutions; feeling that the state cannot control anything. And so people are taking to the streets. And it also coincides with the anniversary of the start of Egypt's revolution. Thousands of people took to the streets, to express their frustration that the promises of Egypt's revolt have not come to fruition.

INSKEEP: So it sounds like it could have been anything that sparked this. In this case, it happened to be this trial of the soccer fans.

FADEL: Yeah. I think this is really a convergence of so many grievances that you see, now, in Egypt - a lack of trust in Egypt's state institutions; a government that they feel is not leading Egypt, but leading on an agenda of their own. This is an Islamist-led government, an Muslim Brotherhood-led government. And people are saying, be the president of Egypt - not the president of the Brotherhood. But the people in the streets are not the majority of Egyptians. This is a polarized nation - generally, along Islamist and secularist lines, but not completely.

INSKEEP: So what does it look like, when you move around Port Said; where these protests took place over the weekend, and where dozens of people were killed?

FADEL: It really is - you see this aftermath of two days of battle; shattered glass on the ground, the remnants of burned tires. The military has been deployed. There is a state of emergency here in Port Said as well as two other cities. So we're seeing APCs throughout the cities; blockades to stop people getting in to the downtown area and near the prison, where most of the clashes were.

But today, we are expecting more funerals - for seven more people that were killed yesterday, and that could get out of control. And many people in these cities where the state of emergency was declared, are calling for protests to start at the time that the president called for a curfew - at 9 p.m. tonight.

INSKEEP: We're listening to NPR's Leila Fadel. She is in Port Said, Egypt, where protests turned deadly over the weekend.

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