Parliamentarians and members of the Masry Ultras football-fan group led thousands on a protest in Port Said on Friday, denouncing recent attempts by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to build bridges with the rival Ahly Ultras group on the fourth anniversary of the Port Said stadium massacre.
The protestors vented their disapproval at conciliatory statements made by Sisi on Monday, the fourth anniversary of the massacre that saw 73 Al-Ahly football fans killed during violence at a football match between Cairo-based Al-Ahly and Port Said hosts Al-Masry.
Sisi’s statements came in a surprise telephone call to the Al-Qahera Al-Youm television talk show, during which the president offered to meet with representatives of the Ahly Ultras group, inviting ten members to join a committee to contribute to the official investigation into the tragedy.
Earlier on Monday, thousands of Alhy Ultras had commemorated the massacre at the Al-Ahly stadium in Cairo, chanting slogans against senior government figures and the people of Port Said.
On Friday, Amr Samy, spokesperson of the Masry Ultras, told Mada Masr that he rejected the idea of Ahly Ultras being given special status within the official investigations.
“They don’t have the right to take part in the investigations. They’re a rival in the case. If ten of the Ahly Ultra members are included in the committee, then ten of us should also be included,” he said.
Samy said that anger had been mounting in Port Said since Monday’s gathering at Al-Ahly stadium, during which Ahly Ultras chanted insults against Port Said. That anger only grew with Sisi’s statements later that night, said Samy.
The protests in Port Said on Friday were joined by five parliamentarians representing the city. Despite initially releasing a statement asking fans to cancel the protests, the administration of Al-Masry Football Club eventually participated.
The protesters held signs asserting that 53 of those killed in the massacre were Port Said residents, while another 74 residents are currently wrongfully detained on charges relating to the tragedy.
The protesters also demanded an investigation into the killing of 40 civilians during clashes outside Port Said prison in January 2013, following the announcement of death sentences against 21 people in the case.