Maspero Demonstrators Shot, Run Down by Security Forces

October 9, 2011 . By

A Christian-led protest at Maspero, the state television building, was attacked by security forces, leaving more than two dozen dead. The march was the latest in a string of protests by Coptic Christians expressing their displeasure with the government’s handling of an attack on a church in Aswan.

Today’s procession, which started peacefully in Shubra, was supposed to be the beginning of a sit-in at Maspero, which houses the Egyptian Radio and Television Union. Instead, the marchers were forcefully repulsed as they neared their destination, with security forces and bystanders hurling rocks. The clashes escalated, with the predominantly Christian protesters fighting back against mostly Muslim bystanders and security forces. As the violence spread, state television hosts covering the incident claimed that the army was under attack and called for Egyptians to come fight the protesters. By the end of the night, between 25 and 27 people had been killed, and over 500 were injured.

Eyewitness reports put the blame for the deaths on the armed forces and military police, who were guarding the building. The most egregious acts of violence were committed by security forces: shooting at random into the crowd and using armored personnel carriers (APCs) to drive through the crowd in an attempt to disperse the protesters. Protesters responded by torching several vehicles, including at least one APC.

The army claimed that its officers acted in self-defense, but human rights groups later decried the lack of an official investigation into the events of the evening. Extended raw footage showing the early stage of the march, the attack, and the subsequent funeral is available here.