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Egypt protests on anniversary of Mubarak's fall

Monday - 2/11/2013, 8:36pm  ET

Egyptian protesters throw stones while security police open water canons on them from inside the grounds of the presidential palace during a demonstration in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Feb. 11, 2013. Security forces sprayed protesters with water hoses and tear gas outside the presidential palace Monday as Egyptians marked the second anniversary of autocrat Hosni Mubarak’s ouster with angry demonstrations against his elected successor.(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Associated Press

CAIRO (AP) -- Security forces sprayed protesters with water hoses and tear gas outside the presidential palace Monday as Egyptians marked the second anniversary of the fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak's with angry demonstrations against his elected successor.

The forces were trying to disperse a small crowd of protesters after some of them attempted to cross a barbed wire barrier meant to block them from the palace gate. Some protesters chanted: "The people want to bring down the regime." Others threw stones.

Graffiti scribbled on the palace walls read: "Erhal" or "Leave," the chant that echoed through Cairo's central Tahrir Square during the 18-day uprising that ended with Mubarak stepping down on Feb. 11, 2011.

Earlier, masked men briefly blocked trains at a central Cairo subway station and a dozen other protesters blocked traffic with burning tires on a main overpass in Cairo. Hundreds rallied outside the office of the country's chief prosecutor demanding justice and retribution for protesters killed in clashes with security forces after Islamist President Mohammed Morsi took office last summer.

The protesters lobbed plastic bags filled with red liquid at the prosecutor's office to recall the blood spilled by civilians in clashes with security forces. His appointment by Morsi was criticized as a violation of the judiciary's independence. Another group of protesters locked shut the doors of the main administrative building for state services just outside the subway station at Tahrir Square.

Egypt has been gripped by political turmoil since Mubarak's ouster, in an uprising driven largely by anger over widespread abuse at the hands of state security agencies. After he stepped down, Mubarak was replaced by a ruling military council that was in power for 17 months. The rule of the generals was marred by violence and criticism that the council mismanaged the transitional period.

Morsi won the first free elections in June. But he and his Muslim Brotherhood, which rose to be Egypt's most powerful political group post-Mubarak, are now facing the wrath of Egyptians who drove the 2011 revolt but who say few of their goals have been realized.

For many in Egypt, the past two years have only increased frustration, with the economy deteriorating as political bickering between a largely secular opposition and a tightly organized and conservative Islamist bloc obstructed progress.

Protesters are particularly angry over the continued heavy handedness of security services, claiming little has changed since the Mubarak era. Many accuse Morsi and the Brotherhood of trying to monopolize power and ignoring the demands of the secular and liberal groups who were the backbone of the uprising.

On Monday, government opponents marched to Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the uprising which has been sealed off by protesters since November. Others went to the presidential palace. Hundreds also marched through the streets of Alexandria, Egypt's second largest city.

"Of course I feel disappointed. Every day it's getting worse," said Ahmed Mohamed, a 20-year-old engineering student protesting outside the presidential palace. "The economy is even worse and all government institutions are collapsing. Morsi won't even acknowledge this."

Doaa Mustafa, a 33-year-old housewife, said she is willing to stay on the streets until Morsi steps down, as Mubarak did.

"We're here so that Mohammed Morsi, the dictator, will leave. He is just as bad as Mubarak, if not worse."

The protesters are also demanding the amendment of the country's new constitution. They claim that Islamists rushed the charter through the approval process despite disagreement with the opposition. The result, they say, was a charter that undermines freedoms of expression and belief and chips away at women rights.

Some protesters are also demanding a new Cabinet, accusing the current government of being ineffective and failing to rein in police abuses or institute economic reforms. One of the most heated issues for protesters remains a lack of accountability for those responsible for the deaths of hundreds of civilians during protests against the state.

Morsi and his supporters have repeatedly dismissed the opposition's charges, accusing them and Mubarak supporters of trying to topple a democratically elected president.

After seven months in office, Morsi's popularity has fallen some 10 percent to 53 percent, according to pollster Magued Osman of the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research. The poll was conducted via telephone interviews with more than 2,300 participants and had a margin of error of less than 3 percent. Only 39 percent of those polled said they would elect Morsi again if there were new elections, compared to 50 percent a month earlier.

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