In a televised address Sunday night, the president said the state of emergency, which allows security forces to arrest and detain at will, would cover Port Said, Suez and Ismailia for 30 days.
“The protection of the nation is the responsibility of everyone. We will confront any threat to its security with force and firmness within the shadow of the state of the law,” Morsi said.
Thousands took to the streets of Port Said on Sunday in funeral processions for more than 30 people killed Saturday in clashes between protesters and police, after a court handed down death sentences to 21 people for their involvement in a deadly soccer riot last year.
Officials said that at least seven more died Sunday in the city, where hundreds have been wounded in two days of fighting. Residents said security forces had contributed to the violence, instead of bringing the situation under control.
The strife in Port Said roughly coincided with the second anniversary of the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak and with a swell of opposition to Islamist rule. In Cairo, Suez and Ismailia, clashes spawned by anniversary protests against Morsi’s government on Friday carried into Sunday, and opposition groups called for further protests Monday.
At the heart of the crisis is growing national frustration over the pursuit of justice two years after Mubarak’s fall. Egyptians across the political spectrum complain that the abusive security forces cultivated under his rule have evaded punishment for crimes committed during the uprising and since his ouster.
Egypt’s court system remains opaque and marred by allegations of corruption and politicized rulings.
Although the clashes in Port Said occurred in response to the court verdict Saturday, Michael Wahid Hanna, a Middle East expert at the Century Foundation, said the city’s crisis also reflected Egyptians’ growing dissatisfaction with Morsi and the slow pace of reforms.
“People no longer have confidence in the institutions of the state, and they are willing to exercise that rejection through violence,” Hanna said.
Only two of the nearly 170 security officials and police officers charged with using violence against civilians during the past two years have been convicted, rights groups say.
A conflict last month over the religious character of Egypt’s new constitution that pits the Islamist government against a broad liberal and secular opposition has further degraded trust in Morsi.
The president urged the nation Sunday night to respect the court’s rulings, but Egyptians have increasingly vowed to take matters of justice into their own hands over verdicts deemed unsatisfactory.