At least 30 people were killed on Saturday when Egyptians rampaged in protest at the sentencing of 21 people to death over a soccer stadium disaster, violence that compounds a political crisis facing Islamist President Mohamed Morsi. The clashes came as Egypt
reeled from deadly protests that killed nine people across the country marking
the second anniversary of the January 25 revolution.

A judge announced
the death penalty for 21 of the 73 defendants on trial for the Port Said
massacre. Clashes in Port Said following the announcement of the verdict left at
least five dead and dozens more injured, according to the Egyptian daily

Seventy-four people died in riots at a soccer stadium in Port
Said on February 1, 2012. Eyewitnesses said police did nothing to stop the melee
that broke out between two rival soccer teams and even refused to open the doors
to allow people to escape. The massacre was held up as proof of the country’s
slide towards anarchy.

Over the past week, the “ultras,” or young soccer
hooligans who are often at the head of protest marches and responsible for much
of the violence at Egypt’s protests, posted online threats promising to destroy
and burn buildings across Cairo if they are unsatisfied with the

If it is anything less than capital punishment, “the country
will burn,” one 19-year-old ‘ultra’ named Ahmed told The Jerusalem Post on Friday in
Tahrir Square. “We are angry because we haven’t received our rights… it’s not
just a football match, the [Muslim] Brotherhood wants to continue to burn the
country to they can continue to rule,” he said. “There’s no

In the aftermath of clashes on Friday night to mark the two-year anniversary, pundits and politicians focused much attention on a new group
of protesters who also could be linked to the ultras: the black bloc. For the
first time on Friday, teenagers and young people came out in force dressed
head-to-toe in black, many wearing black balaclava ski masks.

The term
black bloc began in Germany in the 1970s with a group of anarchists and has been
used loosely in a number of other instances since then, including the anti-World
Trade Organization protests in Seattle in 1999 and the G20 summit in Toronto in

In Egypt, members of the black bloc refused to speak to the media.
“No one knows anything about them, they appeared three or four days ago,” said
Adel, an Arabic literature teacher who saw them in Tahrir on Friday for the
first time. “Some people think they are ‘ultras’ but they issued a statement on
Friday saying ‘we’re not ultras, we’re not anyone.’” However, some wore ski
masks with the insignia of the Ahly soccer team.

Many seasoned activists
dismissed the black blocs as angry teenagers looking to stir up trouble who will
not have a lasting impact. “We might see a reemergence [in coming protests] but
I don’t expect them to hijack the revolution,” said Adel.

“[Are the black
bloc] anarchist revolutionaries or 18 year olds who live with their moms &
wear black masks thinking life is a video game?” asked one activist
sarcastically on Twitter.

Reuters contributed to this report.

39 die in Egypt protests over soccer massacre verdicts – Jerusalem Post
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