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Thousands fill Tahrir on Friday to protest Morsi's new 'dictatorial powers'
Mass rally takes place in Tahrir to oppose president Mohamed Morsi's constitutional declaration; violence between protesters and police continue in nearby streets for fifth day
Zeinab El Gundy, Mostafa Ali, Osman El Sharnoubi, Friday 23 Nov 2012
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Tahrir square
Protesters gather at Tahrir square in Cairo November 23, 2012. (Photo: Mai Shaheen)
By Friday night, the number of the protesters, who began arriving in Tahrir Square for 'Eyes of Freedom' Friday throughout the morning, had reached tens of thousands after rallies from Talaat Harb Street, Shubra, Sayyida Zeinab, and Mustafa Mahmoud Square in Giza reached Tahrir.
 
While many protesters had started leaving the square, others were just arriving.
 
For one, Ultras football fans arrived in torrents at sundown, adding thousands to the square.

Protesters chanted “The people want to topple the regime,” “Do not be afraid, Morsi has to leave,” and “Down with the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide.”

Over 30 opposition political groups took part in the protest. Their demands include the dismissal of Morsi's cabinet, prosecuting police officers responsible for killing and injuring protesters, and a purge and restructuring of the police.

However, a new Constitutional Declaration announced by president Mohamed Morsi on Thursday altered the focus of the expected rallies. 

The declaration gained the ire of liberal and leftist forces across the country who charge that the president has awarded himself dictatorial powers since the new rules stipulate that no presidential decision taken since 30 June when he assumed office can be appealed.

The declaration also angered many Egyptians since it shields the Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly and Shura Council (upper house of parliament) from possible dissolution by pending court orders.

On the march to Tahrir from Mostafa Mahmoud mosque in the Mohandessin district, the ten thousand strong protesters haunted the Muslim Brotherhood and president Morsi with chants over the 5 mile route.

"Keep selling out the revolution, Badie," the chanters targeted the Supreme Guide of the Brotherhood.

"Down with Mohamed Morsi Mubarak," the chanters likened the current president's performance to that of the ousted dictator.

"Bread, freedom, and down with the Constituent Assembly."

However, along the route, news that Amr Moussa, a former Mubarak foreign minister and a 2012 presidential contender, had joined the rallies sparked anger from many protesters and led to skirmishes between some revolutionary youth and other Moussa supporters on the march.

"We say No to both the Brotherhood and people like Moussa who are remnants of the corrupt regime," Haitham Mohameddain of the Revolutionary Socialists, carried on shoulders by a fellow protester, appealed to the crowds.

As news arrived that Moussa was not leading the march and that he might have left altogether, the tense situation was diffused and the crowd returned to think of a next chant against Morsi.

Back in Tahrir Square, Ramdan Abul-Azam, 40, told Ahram Online: “[Morsi's] decisions are shocking. Now he has all the power and he insists on keeping the Constituent Assembly even though we reject it. We had to protest in Tahrir Square.”

“The declaration incriminates President Morsi,” said Mahmoud Mohamed, 70, from Upper Egypt. “The Brotherhood took over the revolution and I urge them to take the Salafists with them on a trip to the Cape of Good Hope in order to learn about human rights in Islam.”

Clashes on Mohamed Mahmoud Street between protesters and Central Security Forces (CSF) continued for a fifth day. Protesters accused CSF of using gunshots, tear gas and rocks.

Young protesters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails. Several protesters were injured, mostly suffering from head injuries. One protester, Salah Gaber, was killed.

Small rallies entered the street from time to time chanting anti-Brotherhood slogans and Ultras songs.

In Mohamed Mahmoud Street, an emotional Ahmed Mounir, 15, told Ahram Online that his brother was injured in last year’s Mohamed Mahmoud clashes and had to have his leg amputated.
 
“I have been in the square for three days now. I want to secure my brother’s rights and I don’t care if I live or die,” he said.
 
More intense clashes continued in Qasr El-Aini Street right off the square between protesters and security forces well into the night.

Ultras fans joined hundreds of others engaging in skirmishes with the police, braving tear-gas and throwing stones at the forces based deeper along the street.

At one point earlier in the afternoon an armoured police vehicle was set afire by the protesters. 

During the afternoon, some protesters formed a human shield between CSF and protesters on Qasr El-Aini Street in a failed attempt to prevent further violence.

Barbed-wire barricade were set up earlier by security forces, but that did not work to stop the clashes either.

Tens of protesters were ferried on motorcycles to the field hospital set up in the square after suffering suffocation from teargas and stone injuries.

"We were protesting peacefully as we usually do, but as soon as we approached the police they started attacking us," Ahmed Hamido, a protester suffering from the effects of tear gas said.

"God willing we will remove Morsi as we did Mubarak," he told Ahram Online.

Two tents were set up in Tahrir Square by the Constitution Party and the Popular Current but there are no reported plans for a sit-in.

Parties will deliberate on next steps after protest.

"We will evaluate the situation and see whether there will be a sit-in or not, parties will meet at the end of the day to discuss our future actions," Emad Attiya, a founding member of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party told Ahram Online.

Some of the rallies were led by political figures such as veteran socialist Kamel Khalil, and Socialist Popular Alliance Party leader Abdel-Ghafr Shukr. The Popular Current, the Constitution Party, the liberal Wafd Party,April 6 (Democratic Front), Revolutionary Socialists and the Social Democratic Party also took part in the rallies.




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