CAIRO — Thousands of Egyptian security officers went on strike Thursday to protest conflicting pressures from the government to crack down on street demonstrations and from the public to exercise restraint.
The police revolt marks a new tangle in a three-way struggle pitting the security forces against President Mohammed Morsi on one side and emboldened mobs of protesters on the other.
Under former President Hosni Mubarak, the police and security forces operated with little training or oversight.
Now anger at the continued brutality of the police, compounded by impatience with Morsi’s failure to deliver immediate changes in the security forces, has fueled protests in cities across Egypt, engulfing some in chaos.
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In Port Said, at the northern gateway to the Suez Canal, protesters have attacked police stations, set fire to security headquarters and shut down much of the city for the past two weeks.
The wave of police walkouts began Tuesday when about 2,000 riot police officers in the canal town of Ismailia refused to deploy for crowd control in Port Said.
By Thursday, the state newspaper Al Ahram reported, striking security officers had closed down at least 30 police stations — in Cairo, Giza, Ismailia, Port Said, Minya, Sohag, Al Dakahleya, Al Gharbeya and Alexandria — as well as “tens” of the central security divisions in Sinai, the Nile Delta and elsewhere. Each one can hold thousands of soldiers.