CAIRO // What set apart yesterday's violence in Egypt from previous fighting was the growing resentment of the police, who believe they have been unfairly blamed for crackdowns on anti-government protests against the president, Mohammed Morsi, and accusing his Muslim Brotherhood of trying to control them.
Police in at least 10 of 29 governorates, including several stations in Cairo, were on strike to protest against the government as the verdicts in the Port Said football riot case were announced yesterday, said Maj Tarek Serry, a police activist in Cairo.
"We are the silent victims of these political battles," he said. "We are not equipped to fight thugs with automatic weapons and grenades. Our power has been completely consumed by politics. The job of a policeman is to protect the security of the country and its citizens, not to help one group fight another."
A division of the interior ministry responsible for protecting the president's motorcade in Egypt also joined a police strike, said Ihab Youssef, a former interior ministry official. "The police are refusing to work because the regime has no vision for security or leadership ability," he said. Mr Youssef said the situation would only get worse unless Mr Morsi replaced Mohamed Ibrahim, the interior minister, with a veteran police official who was not connected to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The near-daily demonstrations have turned into clashes with police in several cities, resulting in the killing of about 60 protesters. Each death has increased public anger against the security forces, fuelled further by reports of the torture of some activists by security agents. The force is already widely hated because of its legacy of abuses and brutality under Hosni Mubarak.
On Friday, the military took over security in Port Said as police withdrew and riot police stayed in their barracks. The move was an attempt to bring calm since protesters trust the army more than the police.
* With additional reports from the Associated Press