Most days, I think about going to Egypt. Today, Egypt came to me.
A large group of Egyptian protesters rallied in front of the Washington Post offices on Thursday afternoon, registering their support for military leader Gen. Abdel Fatah el-Sissi and their opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood. The protest had begun in front of the White House, a few blocks away, before moving to the Post. The office's main lobby was shut down and no one was allowed in or out during the approximately half hour that the protesters peacefully chanted and waved signs.
The protest appeared to include, among others, a large number of Coptic Christians, who make up about one-tenth of Egypt's population and many of whom live in the District and neighboring suburbs. Some complained that the Post had not sufficiently covered the rash of mob violence against churches and Christian-owned businesses in Egypt since the July 3 military coup that removed President Mohamed Morsi.
"You have very skewed coverage of the news in Egypt. You have not been covering all that is happening," said Iris Soliman of Bethesda. She objected to the Post referring to Morsi's ouster as a coup and said it should instead recognize that it was the "second wave of the revolution." She chided the paper for not covering what she said were Muslim Brotherhood supporters stockpiling mosques with guns.
The protesters repeated the messages of similar demonstrations within Egypt, which began on June 30 to call for the military to remove Morsi and have continued since. Many waved posters of Sissi in a show of support for his takeover, although signs also insisted that this did not qualify as a coup because so many Egyptians had supported it. Some stated that 33 million Egyptians had gathered in support of Morsi's ouster; while the number was surely lower than this, gatherings on June 30 and after are thought to have numbered in the hundreds of thousands and perhaps beyond.
"Egypt is doing the entire world a favor by getting rid of the extremists," said Salwa El-Gebaly, of Gaithersburg. She argued that, in time, the world would learn that the hundreds of deaths attributed to the recent government crackdown of pro-Morsi sit-ins were in fact caused by Muslim Brotherhood "executions." She, like others, expressed unhappiness for the violence in Egypt but said that the Brotherhood, and not Sissi or the military, was to blame.
The demonstrators accused President Obama of directly funding the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist organization from which Morsi hails and which has seen hundreds of supporters killed or arrested in state security crackdowns this month. Many of the signs at today's protest argued that the Brotherhood is a part of al-Qaeda and that Obama's support for the Brotherhood is equivalent to funding terrorism. Although the U.S. has been at pains to maintain neutrality in Egypt's deepening social and political divisions, it has been accused by both sides of secretly supporting the other.
At one point, the crowd chanted "We support the Egyptian Army." Although most signs singled out Obama or Morsi for criticism, one appeared to target the Washington Post, reading, "Post = Brotherhood."
As Washington Post staffers gathered in the lobby to watch the crowd, one of the protesters standing a few feet from the windows waved a Sissi poster over his head as he scanned across the roomful of journalists, making eye contact with as many as he could. Whenever someone would acknowledge him, he'd smile, hold the poster next to his face and give a big thumbs-up for Sissi.
The crowd cleared by 2:45 p.m., headed south on 15th street NW. There were no arrests.
Here are some more photos from the protest: