Anti-sectarian violence protest in Cairo
Multiple rows of riot police lined the Corniche el-Nil on either side of the Maspero demonstration against sectarian violence. The perceived need for security was so great, in fact, that multiple units of military officers and police were called up. Rows of tanks and personnel carriers blocked the road leading to the protest, but only along the entry opposite the Foreign Ministry, raising questions about what exactly the presence was there to protect.
Christians have come to Maspero to join the demonstration from all corners of Cairo, many staying and sleeping on the streets for days on end.
Security has remained heavy along Corniche el-Nil, a downtown thoroughfare shut down by the demonstration that hosts the State Radio and Television Building, seen in the background with the broadcasting antenna.
This man, who gave his name as John, was shot in the leg with what he described as a Russian-made 9mm gun during the midnight shooting on May 14th. Although he couldn't walk, and had a team of friends constantly wiping and redressing the wound as it bled through the bandage, he vowed to stay at the demonstration 'until I die.'
Coptic Christians have faced a long history of abuse in Egypt, including harassment and occasional violence such as the Church bombing in Alexandria on New Years of this year. Many saw the Maspero protest as an opportunity to finally voice very serious grievances.
With the removal of the Mubarak regime, Coptic Christians in Egypt have found their first opportunity for vocal and sustained criticism of their treatment. At the Maspero protest I was repeatedly asked to share my pictures 'with the world'.
The Copts gathered at Maspero are increasingly frustrated at the lack of substantive efforts on the part of the Egyptian State to provide them increased security. Many chanted slogans against Field Marshall Tantawi, Egypt's de facto leader.
This tree will become home
Many of the protesters at Maspero have camped out there since the 8th of May, sleeping in shifts and remaining vigilant through the night, when both attacks on the protesters have happened.
Many Egyptian Copts tattoo their bodies with Christ and Cross imagery. These tattoos have been used to prove religion at the entrance points to the protest.
Coptic Christians in Egypt wear a tattooed cross on their right wrist, easily visible during a handshake. The cross is seen as a visial representation of religious pride and belonging. Here a protester shows his cross and a memorial to a martyr of the Maspero protest.
The Maspero protest was cordoned off into two sections: an inner section, for women only, and an outer section for men. Although not mentioned, this may be in response to recent rumor-mongering that Christians are of looser morality than their Muslim counterparts, and that the protest was being seen as an opportunity to break social taboos.
Demonstrators at Maspero chant and sing in the hot midday sun, venting anger and frustration at a perceived threat of 'extermination', as one sign forewarned.
While the Egyptian media has covered the Maspero protest, and demonstrators brought new editions of local papers to the site as soon as they were released to monitor coverage, the demonstration has received relatively little attention in the region or internationally. Even in Cairo, the demonstration quickly left the front page, despite the multiple killings, repeated confrontations, and huge number of wounded.