The streets of downtown Cairo grew quiet on Friday evening, just hours after tens of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters marched in demonstrations across Egypt to protest the army-led government and to demand the return of ousted President Mohamed Morsi.
Though demonstrators had dubbed Friday’s protests a “day of rage” against the Egyptian government, the marches remained mostly non-violent, as police in riot gear manned checkpoints and closed roads to some of the city’s major intersections. Egypt’s ministry of health reported three deaths across the country.
The protests came two weeks after Egyptian police in Cairo dispersed two sprawling camps of Muslim Brotherhood supporters who had demanded the reinstatement Morsi. (Millions of Egyptians had successfully demonstrated for Morsi’s ouster on July 3.) The ensuing clashes on Aug. 14 killed more than 600 people, including at least 100 policemen.
Muslim Brotherhood leaders had called for supporters to maintain massive street demonstrations, but the smaller numbers of protesters on Friday suggest the group’s immediate power is waning. Egyptian authorities have arrested dozens of Muslim Brotherhood leaders over the last two weeks.
Still, Islamists said they would continue protests against the ouster of Morsi—a member of the Muslim Brotherhood whose rule was fraught by failed economic policies and Islamist-focused politics.
After Friday prayers, nearly 500 demonstrators leaving a Cairo mosque chanted, “Egypt is Islamic, not secular!” Meanwhile, Reuters reported the Egyptian-born Muslim cleric Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi encouraged Egyptians in Qatar to protest as well.
“You Egyptians, go out, all of you, men, mothers, daughters, even children,” he said in a Friday sermon broadcast on Qatari state television. “This is a religious duty on all Egyptians!”
In other parts of Cairo, protesters called for the downfall of Gen. Abdel-Fatah el Sissi, the military leader who announced Morsi’s ouster in July, and who ordered the dispersing of Muslim Brotherhood camps in mid-August. Demonstrators against the general proclaimed, “The people want the death of the assassin!”
The military warned demonstrators that soldiers would carry live ammunition to protect against attacks on government buildings, police stations, and religious institutions. After clashes erupted in August, Islamists attacked dozens of churches and Christian-owned businesses across Egypt. The mobs looted and burned as many as 60 churches: Coptic, Catholic, and evangelical.
Christians fear more reprisals as Muslim Brotherhood leaders call for more protests. Two Christians in Egypt told WORLD on Thursday that Islamists continued to mark churches and Christian-owned businesses—a tactic used by mobs ahead of the attacks against churches on Aug. 14.
One source said while most Christians try to continue their daily activities, the fresh markings cast a new cloud of fear for many who have already suffered losses. That fear has heightened as witnesses described some Islamists growing bolder, and entering churches to conduct surveillance for possible attacks in the future.