- Middle East/North Africa
Thousands of people have gathered outside Cairo University in the largest show of support for President Mohamed Morsy since his election in June, cheering him and his constitutional declaration and harshly criticizing the secular opposition, private media and the judiciary.
The demonstration was marred, however, by the death of one demonstrator after a tree fell on a stage set up for the rally.
An Interior Ministry satement said that the accident occurred at 3 pm when demonstrators climbed on one of the trees, and that 15 others also suffered injuries.
A steady stream of Morsy supporters marched in groups through Dokki towards Cairo University down Dokki Street throughout the afternoon. At one point, a large procession of marchers took up both lanes of the flyover bridge at Midan Dokki, waving Egyptian and Saudi Arabian flags and chanting in support of the president and Sharia. Morsy's supporters also waved flags and banners from the cabs of trucks and the backs of motorcycles, and buses packed with demonstrators could be seen headed towards the university.
Protesters chanted, “We want it Islamist,” “"The people want God's Sharia," “Morsy has the legitimacy” and “We are the majority.”
"You have the media attacking us and we have God supporting us," read a sign at the rally.
The large number of the protestors gives more confidence to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was shocked by the big turnout of anti-Islamists taking to the streets twice last week opposing Morsy’s decision to grant himself sweeping powers.
The march was augmented by dozens of buses carrying thousands of Morsy supporters from Delta governorates north of Cairo. Buses had previously parked by mosques on the Agricultural Road entrance to Cairo, backing up traffic near the ring road.
Morsy's opponents canceled demonstrations previously-scheduled demonstrations in the same area. Amr Said Shaher, the official spokesperson for the Moqawma (resistance} movement, said that more than eight movements and political parties, including the Revolutionary Socialists, Kefaya, and April 6 Youth Movement, the Constitution Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and the People's Alliance Party, all canceled student marches from Cairo University to Tahrir Square in protest to the Constitutional Declaration.
According to Shaher, the marches were originally schedule to leave the university at 2 pm but were canceled for fear of clashes between the marchers and pro-Morsy demonstrators.
Hundreds of demonstrators had earlier began arriving in front of the Renaissance Statue in Giza, next to Cairo University, for the demonstration.
Islamist parties and political forces organized the demonstration, which they dubbed “legitimacy and Sharia,” and participants displayed various signs and banners supporting the president’s recent decision granting himself broad powers.
Demonstrators also chanted, "Islamist [state] everywhere," "Islamist [state], against injustice and tyranny," and “God is great, people [support] the decisions of the president."
The pro-Morsy protests were originally to be held in Tahrir Square, which was the scene of massive anti-Morsy demonstrations on Friday, but according to the Brotherhood organizers changed the location to avoid a confrontation.
Tens of thousands of protesters had marched to Tahrir Friday, calling for the dissolution of the Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly that approved the draft constitution earlier in the day, and condemning "dictatorial Morsy". Anti-Morsy protesters gathered again in Tahrir Square early on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Agriculture Ministry decided on Saturday to shut down the Giza Zoo, the main gate of which is located in front of the Renaissance Statue, due to the demonstrations.
Official sources at the General Authority for Veterinary Services said that 13 Central Security vehicles and a fire truck were asked to protect the animals and historical trees from any attempts to storm the zoo. The zoo will open its gates to visitors again on Sunday.
Additional reporting by Justin Shilad.