Protests grip Egyptian canal city of Port Said

Thousands of Egyptians protest and close down government offices and factories in the Suez Canal city of Port Said on Feb. 17, 2013.

CAIRO, Egypt — Thousands of Egyptians on Sunday closed down government offices and factories in the Suez Canal city of Port Said, demanding justice for dozens of people killed in clashes with police, witnesses said.

Demonstrators also shut down schools and banks and blocked a main railway route, but their protests did not impact traffic through the strategic Suez Canal, a canal official said.

The marchers were demanding justice for at least 40 protesters killed in clashes with police in late January after a court sentenced 21 soccer fans from the city to death over a deadly football riot last year.

“We have called on the government to bring justice for the martyrs," one man told reporters, according to Euronews. “But there has been no response. No one is listening to us, everyone is very angry.”

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GlobalPost Senior Correspondent in Cairo Erin Cunningham said the protests in Port Said are for many a reminder that while the immediate violence has subsided, the roots of Egypt’s political malaise are still in place.

"Government investigations into abuses by security forces have stalled in recent weeks, after [President Mohamed] Morsi ordered a crackdown on anti-government protesters, some of whom were attacking state institutions," Cunningham said. "The restive and fiercely independent residents of Port Said have become a thorn in the side of Morsi’s government, defying a presidential curfew and chanting in the streets for the leader’s ouster."

While the protests have not affected international trade through the Suez Canal, Cunningham said they have brought the local economy to a halt with the closure of dozens of roads, shops and factories.

In February 2012, 74 people, mostly supporters of the Cairo Al-Ahly club, were killed in a football riot in Port Said.

Home fans were held to blame, with Al-Ahly supporters pledging civil disobedience in Cairo if the court acquitted the Port Said residents.

Last month's violence in Port Said and two other Suez Canal cities prompted Morsi to call in the military and declare emergency law there.

January's clashes coincided with the second anniversary of a popular uprising that overthrew former President Hosni Mubarak, bringing in a period of military rule until Morsi's election last June.

Morsi has since had to contend with mass rallies and almost weekly violent protests by opponents of his government.