Bit long and complicated but a good capture: As some/few protesters armed - Brotherhood-police-military dynamics. (Brotherhood and police is hated. Then how military will act.)
In a departure from most previous clashes around the Egyptian revolution, in Port Said the police also faced armed assailants. Two were seen with handguns on Monday around a siege of a police station, in addition to the man with the Kalashnikov.
Earlier, a man accosted an Egyptian journalist working for The New York Times. “If I see you taking pictures of protesters with weapons, I will kill you,” he warned.
Defending their stations, the police fought back, and in Cairo they battled their own commander, the interior minister.
Brotherhood leaders say Mr. Morsi has been afraid to name an outsider as minister for fear of a police revolt, putting off any meaningful reform of the Mubarak security services. But when Mr. Morsi recently tapped a veteran ministry official, Mohamed Ibrahim, for the job, many in the security services complained that even the appointment of one insider to replace another was undue interference.
In a measure of the low level of the new government’s top-down control over the security forces, officers even cursed and chased away their new interior minister when he tried to attend a funeral on Friday for two members of the security forces killed in the recent clashes.
“What do you mean we won’t be armed? We would be disarmed to die,” one shouted, on a video recording of the event.
In an attempt to placate the rank and file, Mr. Ibrahim issued a statement to police personnel sympathizing with the pressure the protests put on them. Later, he promised them sophisticated weapons.
“That can only be a recipe for future bloodshed,” said Hossam Bahgat, executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, which monitors police abuses.
By turning to the military, Mr. Morsi signaled that he understood he could not rely on the police to pacify the streets, Mr. Bahgat argued.
But it was far from clear that Mr. Morsi was fully in command of the military either. The new Islamist-backed Constitution grants the general broad autonomy within the Egyptian government in an apparent quid pro quo for turning over full power to President Morsi in August. Mr. Morsi’s formal request for the military to restore order was “not so much an instruction as a plea for support,” Mr. Bahgat said.
It remains to be seen whether the military retains the credibility to quell the protests. The soldiers stationed in Port Said did nothing to intervene as clashes raged on in the streets hours after curfew Monday night.
Analysts close to the military say its officers are extremely reluctant to engage in the kind of harsh crackdown that would damage its reputation with Egyptians, preferring to rely on its presence alone.
Near the front lines of the clashes, residents debated whether they would welcome a military takeover. “The military that was sent to Port Said is the Muslim Brotherhood’s military,” said one man, dismissing its independence from Mr. Morsi.
But others said they still had faith in the institution, if not in its top generals. “In the military, the soldiers are our brothers,” said Khaled Samir Abdullah, 25. Pointing to the police, he said, “those ones are merciless.”