Anti-Morsy protests bring hundreds of thousands together
Although it appeared less crowded than Tuesday’s million-person rally, Friday’s protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and elsewhere gathered hundreds of thousands.
Protesters demanded the revocation of President Mohamed Morsy's controversial powers and immunity from judicial oversight, which the president bestowed upon himself on 22 November through a constitutional declaration.
Protesters throughout Egypt’s squares also denounced the new draft constitution – which opponents claim has been rushed through by Islamist parties which dominate the Constituent Assembly.
“The people demand the fall of the regime,” and “depart” - slogans used against toppled President Hosni Mubarak last year during the 25 January protests – came back to the streets against the new regime.
The Egyptian Social Democratic Party hung up a large banner in Tahrir reading, “a constitution for Egyptians…Down with the unconstitutional declaration.” The Constitution Party hung up banners around the square reading: “No to the constitutional declaration. No legal immunity for the Constituent Assembly. No to the monopolization of power. No to a new dictatorship. No to the bloodshed of Egyptians.”
Bloodshed has been feared following calls by the Muslim Brotherhood to organize pro-Morsy rallies in the vicinity of Tahrir Square. A planned pro-president rally on Saturday was eventually moved to the Cairo University area in Giza.
The founder of the Constitution Party, former Chief of the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei took to a stage near Tahrir where he addressed a sea of protesters. “This is an uprising for our freedom and dignity, this is an uprising to protect our noble revolution. This uprising is taking place in squares across the country,” he told the crowd.
ElBaradei spelled out his demands to Morsy and the ruling regime: to revoke the constitutional declaration, embark on a national dialogue with opposition forces, dissolve the current Constituent Assembly and to establish a new and representative one.
“We will utilize all peaceful means to resist the regime’s injustices, and to realize the goals of our revolution: Bread, freedom, social justice, and human dignity” said ElBaradei. In response, protesters chanted: “Bread, freedom, down with the Constituent Assembly.”
Following ElBaradei’s speech, a middle-aged protester took to the stage and shouted, “Just like we deposed Mubarak, we will bring down Morsy’s Constituent Assembly and his declaration; And if he refuses to do so then we will depose Morsy himself.” Responding to his riling speech, the protesters chanted “batil”, the Arabic word for “Illegitimate.”
Female activist Kareema al-Hefnawi addressed the massive crowd asking: “Did anybody understand any of Morsy’s excuses during his (televised) address last night?” The masses replied “No!” Hefnawi denounced Morsy’s constitutional declaration and described him as a tyrant. “Dictator, dictator… Morsy’s (downfall) is next in line,” chanted the female activist.
Judge Ashraf al-Baroudi then took to the stage and said, “A constitution which does not represent all Egyptians is not worth being drafted in the first place.” The justice added, “it is the people who are the source of all authorities, not the president. In the past the people were conditioned to fear the ruler; but today it is the ruler who will fear the people.”
Layla Marzouk, mother of the deceased activist Khaled Saeed, known as the “torture martyr” briefly addressed the audience declaring that she is neither interested in Morsy’s compensation money, nor his presidency altogether. Marzouk commented that she only wants justice for her son “and justice for all the other martyrs, and their families.”
Clashes that had been raging for several days between protesters and riot-police by the adjacent Simon Bolivar Square came to an end after security forces erected a second concrete barrier on a street leading into the square last night. Nonetheless, tens of young protesters climbed the barrier and chanted slogans against security forces deployed behind it. They shouted: “Filthy government, you sons of filth!”
Tens of tents have been pitched across the square and outside the Mugamaa complex, with many determined to escalate the pressure to push for concessions from the ruling regime.