Cairo Protests Sparked By Anti-Islam Trailer Continue
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Now to Cairo, where there was third day of confrontations sparked by anger over an anti-Muslim video made in the U.S. Outside the American embassy, rock-throwing protestors battled with police wielding teargas canisters. Protestors are demanding the removal of the U.S. ambassador and punishment for the people who made the video. NPR's Leila Fadel reports on that scene from Cairo.
LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: The police wear surgical masks, helmets and wield batons outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo. For nearly 24 hours, they've been trying to keep a few hundred hardcore demonstrators away from the fortified U.S. embassy compound. Teargas hangs in the air, stinging the eyes of passersby. An exhausted police officer says that he's been here since yesterday and will probably be here tomorrow.
The protests show no sign of letting up. In the distance, protestors chant that the police are thugs. Ambulances lay in wait on both the demonstrators' and police sides to treat the injured. Paramedics say they've treated more than 240 people and have also not slept.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: (Speaking foreign language)
FADEL: This isn't Islam, (unintelligible) says in disgust, standing between a group of riot police officers. Why are they doing this, he says, referring to the demonstrations. Protest, but not with violence, he says. He echoes a sentiment many in Egypt share. While there are a few hardcore demonstrators in a small area, it's business as usual in the rest of the country.
The Muslim Brotherhood and the president, who comes from the organization's ranks, have condemned the attacks on the U.S. missions in the region. The once-banned Islamist organization has also consistently called for legal action against the filmmaker, who is reported to be a Coptic Christian residing in California.
The government put people thought to be connected to the film on a watch list at Cairo's airport.
MOHAMED MORSI: (Foreign language spoken)
FADEL: President Mohamed Morsi went even further in his statements to a domestic audience, saying that making fun of the Prophet is a red line. A statement from the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing demanded that the American government take concrete action to stop the movie, which it said spewed hatred and extremism. The Brotherhood has called for nationwide peaceful protests on Friday in Egypt.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTESTERS)
FADEL: Back in Tahrir Square, a few blocks from the U.S. embassy, protester Hamid Sameth's(ph) eyes water as he leans against a railing to catch his breath, after a heavy barrage of teargas. The protesters here are young and ready for a fight. But they don't seem to know much about the film at all.
HAMID SAMETH: (Foreign language spoken)
FADEL: We are Muslims and we are defending our faith, says Sameth. Of course, you know that America insulted our prophet, he tells me. He says he hasn't seen the film. He doesn't know who made it, but he wants the U.S. ambassador to leave and the filmmaker imprisoned.
Still, those not directly involved in the clashes seem contemptuous of the protesters. Khaled Abdel Razaq points at the demonstration in disgust, as he returns from shopping.
KHALED ABDEL RAZAQ: (Foreign language spoken)
FADEL: If the people really want to vindicate the Prophet, at least we should follow the example he set, he says, not go demonstrate and pillage. The world is calling us terrorists and those protesters are proving it's true, he says.
Leila Fadel, NPR News, Cairo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.