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August 04, 2013

Egypt Protesters Defiant as Police Warn of Arrests

by Heather Murdock

Egyptian demonstrators demanding the reinstatement of ousted President Mohamed Morsi expressed defiance Sunday, as the Ministry of Interior said it was trying to protect them from the protest organizers. 

Police helicopters dropped flyers on Cairo's largest demonstration in Rabaa, saying the protesters have been “mentally kidnapped” by the Muslim Brotherhood and asking them to return home.

It is sometimes hard to hear the police helicopter flying overhead as the crowd shouts opposition to the military and police.  Some men hold shoes in the air toward the helicopter, a symbol of disrespect in Egypt.

The helicopter swoops back and forth, dropping flyers on the protesters: a message from the Ministry of Interior.  The flyers say police will not harm anyone who chooses to leave now and the security forces will protect them from the protest organizers.

But people who have been staying in this camp for over a month in protest of the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi say they don’t care about the flyers, they will stay put until their demands are met.

Twenty-four-year old university student Ahmed Abdullah says he won’t leave the camp until Morsi, currently detained by the military, is returned to office and the constitution is restored.

Morsi was forced from office by the military on July 3 after Egyptians across the country took to the streets to demand his removal.  Critics say after Morsi was elected last year, he used his authority to dismantle emerging democratic institutions and he alienated the courts, the military and the people.

Some protesters, however, say Morsi’s removal has galvanized supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, who seek to further incorporate religion into government.  Mahmoud, a computer trainer, says flyers threatening the Brotherhood draw more protesters to the sit-ins in Cairo, where thousands rally daily, as opposed to scaring them away.

“The number of people has increased.  We come in this place and we know that we will die but my God, our God, has promised us if we die for our religion all of us will come to his [God]," he said.

In the flyers, the Interior Ministry accuses protest organizers affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood of killings and inciting violence.  

Protesters say they are armed only with rocks and sticks and will only fight if they are under attack.

Hundreds of people have been killed in clashes since July 3 and many fear more violence will come if authorities attempt to dismantle the protest camps.