Protesters also rejected a military takeover, noting that the generals had assumed power after Mubarak stepped down and had failed in 18 months of rule to bring about reform.
“Egypt needs real change, and people don’t believe anything is changing. What’s worse is that everyone is playing politics for an election most people don’t even know is coming,” said Mohammed Noor, 26, of Port Said, referring to April’s parliamentary elections. “Don’t tell me people are going to the street because they have a hard life. They are taking revenge for the killings. It is like waves of vengeance. It will continue until one side gets tired or this turns into a real revolution with real leaders.”
Some at Port Said called for the province to secede from Egypt, pointing out that it holds the country’s largest port and second-largest oil reserve.
In Cairo, others proposed another election.
“When he was first elected, Morsi went to Tahrir and said if the people don’t want me, I will leave. He opened his coat and said, ‘This is to show you that everyone likes me,’ ” said Emad Mehrez, 51, a hotel manager. “The first elections were not right. We want a new constitution. We want the men with beards to go,” a reference to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, the secretive Islamist society through which Morsi rose to prominence.
Looking ahead, there are many more opportunities for controversial issues to spark more protests.
Mubarak is expected to be retried after his conviction was overturned on charges that he’d ordered protesters to be killed during the 2011 uprising. On March 9, a court in Port Said is expected to announce a second round of verdicts in the deaths of 74 fans last year in a riot after a soccer game. The first round of verdicts Saturday, in which 21 fans of Port Said’s soccer team were sentenced to death, sparked the current protest.
Next month, the government is to make its case for a loan from the International Monetary Fund, and in April, it is supposed to hold parliamentary elections. Either event is likely to stir anger and emotions that could lead to violence in a country where at least 32 people died Saturday in reaction to the soccer-riot verdict.
How exactly that violence unfolded here remained uncertain Monday. In some cases, protesters threw rocks at the police and were met with tear gas and live ammunition. In others, it appeared that protesters had fired on the police.
At the funeral Sunday for the 32 who’d been killed the day before, at least 12 more died, leading to more clashes and Monday’s curfew. Morgue officials have said that all those who were killed died from gunfire.
Unlike most Egyptian towns, Port Said played only a small role in the 2011 uprising, with many here crediting Mubarak for the city’s relatively vibrant economy.
But support for Morsi was never great – the country’s new Islamist-written constitution received just 51 percent of the vote here in last month’s referendum – and the court’s decision to execute 21 residents for the soccer riot last Feb. 1 became a flash point. Many here think that the 21 weren’t involved in the mayhem but were rounded up a week later as scapegoats.
“Even if they are responsible, the 21, why are they punishing the rest of the city?” asked Alsayda Ali, a 31-year-old housewife and mother of four.
“Mubarak didn’t kill anyone. He was only after money. Morsi is killing us,” said Sayed Hassan Gamal, 59, a retired Port Said salt factory worker.
McClatchy special correspondent Amina Ismail contributed to this report.