The clashes last week were some of the deadliest this year. Protesters against the president had gathered at his presidential palace on Dec. 4 to protest his decision to grant himself immunity from judicial review, and to call a quick referendum on a controversial draft constitution. Some stayed overnight, camping out beside the palace.
On Dec. 5, Muslim Brotherhood leaders called on their followers to march to the presidential palace. Essam El Erian, the deputy chief of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, called on members to go to the palace, implying that if police would not protect it, FJP and Brotherhood members would do so themselves. "If state agencies are weak and still damaged by the wounds of the past, the people can impose their will and protect legitimacy. Members of the FJP will be on the frontline, God-willing," he posted on his public Facebook page.
The president's supporters pushed out the protesters who had camped beside the palace, and dismantled their tents. Clashes between the two sides began that afternoon.
Brotherhood adviser Gehad al Haddad, who was present during the clashes, says during the night there was a vicious attack on the president's supporters carried out by "thugs" armed with guns, and that police did nothing to stop the violence. HRW says in its report that both sides were armed. The Brotherhood says all of the 11 deaths were either Brotherhood members or people who were on the Brotherhood side of the clashes, though the opposition disputes that.