- Middle East/North Africa
Thousands of opposition marched from Hijaz Square in Heliopolis to the presidential palace on Tuesday night to reject the constitutional referendum scheduled for Saturday.
“Egypt is for all Egyptians, not for one single group,” said Yehia Negm, a former ambassador who was wounded in Wednesday’s clashes outside the palace. “Islam has nothing to do with this ongoing violence.”
Protesters climbed the Cinema Palace in Heliopolis and are painting a mural in the space usually reserved for film posters.
An army officer told people outside the palace, “The Armed Forces will ensure that the referendum will not be rigged, but it's up to you to go vote. Read between the lines.”
Hundreds of Morsy opponents also gathered in Tahrir Square amid chants calling on him to leave power.
The demonstrators also demanded the formation of a new Constituent Assembly that reflects national consensus to draft a new constitution. Popular committees set up barbed wire at entrances to the square after violent clashes took place Tuesday morning between street vendors and demonstrators, leaving 11 injured.
Meanwhile, Morsy’s supporters at mosques in Nasr City chanted slogans praising him, his legitimacy and Sharia law.
Mohamed al-Beltagy, secretary of the Freedom and Justice Party in Cairo, warned against attempts to break into the presidential palace, adding that the responsibility for its protection lies with the Republican Guard, the army and the police.
“If they fail to protect it, we will,” he said, standing in the middle of the pro-Morsy demonstration. “Our zero hour is the storming in.”
Thirty buses were seen parked close to Raba’a al-Adaweya Square that brought demonstrators from other governorates. They were decorated with banners of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and Jama’a al-Islamiya’s Construction and Development Party, while there were no banners for the Salafi Nour Party, which is playing a symbolic role in the demonstration.
Egyptian television said the absence of the Nour Party made the demonstration look smaller than that held on 1 December titled “Sharia and Legitimacy.”
The protesters carried banners urging people to vote for the constitution in order to protect the rights of women, children, workers and farmers.
They also carried pictures of those who died in last Wednesday’s clashes outside the presidential palace.
Residents of the area were angered by protesters blocking the main street, according to a reporter on state TV.
Protesters opposed to the constitutional referendum attempted to dismantle one of the recently-erected walls blocking the streets surrounding the presidential palace Tuesday evening, Al Jazeera reported.
The Presidential Guard, which was stationed behind the wall, retreated to line up in front of the palace.
A march left Nour Mosque in Abbasseya toward the presidential palace Tuesday afternoon, with participants chanting “Down with Morsy Mubarak” and “Morsy loves Mama America,” as well as chants referring to Salah Gaber, the young activist known as Jika killed during the protests commemorating the Mohamed Mahmoud Street clashes in 2011.
A row of eight Al-Azhar sheikhs holding a banner reading, “Yes to Sharia, no to the constitution,” marched toward the beginning of the demonstration.
Political forces, including the National Salvation Front, are marching to the presidential palace from a number of prominent squares and mosques around Cairo as part of a mass demonstration demanding the cancellation of the constitutional referendum slated 15 December and the new constitutional declaration.
Leftist activist and founder of the unofficial Workers and Farmers Party Kamal Khalil led the march, chanting, “A theatrical play, the gang is the same, but with beards and galabeyas.”
Ain Shams University students waited outside to join the march when it passes by, images broadcast by Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr showed.
Demonstrators broke an iron gate at Shafiq Ghorbal Street in Heliopolis to join protesters at the presidential palace.
Marches headed to the palace from locations in Nasr City, Abbasseya and Heliopolis, according to state-run TV’s website.
Mohamed Awwad, coordinator of the Youth Movement for Justice and Freedom, told Al-Masry Al-Youm that organizers had agreed to stage three marches.
Meanwhile, thousands of protesters supporting President Mohamed Morsy gathered before Raba’a al-Adaweya and Al-Rashdan mosques in Nasr City to take part in the demonstrations entitled “‘Yes’ for Legitimacy” called for by Islamist forces.
Jama’a al-Islamiya, the Salafi Dawah and the Muslim Brotherhood took part in the protests, and there were a large number of women present, according to state television and Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr.
Demonstrators held banners supporting the draft constitution, which would be up for referendum on Saturday, and distributed fliers about the document’s controversial articles.
The Islamist Forces Coalition, which includes Islamist groups and parties, announced in a statement on Monday that they would stage two protests Tuesday supporting constitution and “legitimacy” around the presidential palace.
Khaled Saeed, spokesperson of the Salafi Front, told Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr that protesters will be committed to keeping the demonstrations peaceful and avoiding clashes with opposition demonstrators.
Mohamed Refaa al-Tahtawi, chief of the presidential staff, warned against any attempts to storm the presidential palace, describing such actions as “crimes that should be confronted.”
“The Interior Ministry was not able to do its part to secure the Ettehadiya Palace [last Wednesday], which prompted the president’s supporters to play that role,” he said in an interview with MBC Egypt on Monday. He stressed that those defending the palace were peaceful demonstrators and did not start the clashes with opponents.
Presidential Guards had erected a stone barrier at Merghany Street and the Orouba Tunnel in Heliopolis to block entrances to the presidential palace, according to state-run MENA news agency. The forces, assisted by Central Security, also installed metal barricades and barbed wire, only leaving a few spots for residents of the area to pass.