Live updates 1: Rival protests erupt across Egypt

Salma Shukrallah, Bel Trew, Ahmed Feteha, Friday 23 Nov 2012

Thousands in Tahrir condemn Morsi's Constitutional Declaration while pro-Morsi demonstrators gather at presidential palace; clashes erupt outside FJP offices across Egypt; fighting on Mohamed Mahmoud Street

Demonstrators in tahrir square (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

17:10 Follow more of our live updates for Friday rallies here

17:05 The Salafist Nour Party announces in a press statement that it accepts President Morsi's Constitutional Declaration.

However, the party added, it has reservations about Article 2 which says presidential decisions cannot be overturned by the judiciary. This is against the party’s principles, the statement says. 

17:00  As clashes continue on Cairo's Tahrir Square and thousands are still gathered in front of the presidential palace following the president's speech, the afternoon shift bids farewell. More live updates here.

16:56 Leading Freedom and Justice Party member Essam El-Erian condemns reported attacks on FJP offices in several governorates.

"They are acts of thuggery hiding behind [opposition] political forces.”

The FJP HQ in Alexandria was partially torched. There were also attempts to break into the Brotherhood HQ in Tanta and Mahalla. Fighting between “thugs” and Brotherhood supporters in Mahalla resulted in injuries on both sides.

Egyptian protesters opposed to President Mohammed Morsi break into the offices of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, in Alexandria, Egypt, Friday, Nov. 23, 2012.(AP)

El-Erian denies reports that the FJP and Brotherhood HQs have been attacked in Ismailia, Port-Said or Suez. He also denies that clashes have occurred between pro- and anti-Brotherhood protesters in Kafr El-Sheikh, Menoufiya and Qalioubiya.

16:45  Former presidential candidates Hamdeen Sabbahi and Mohamed ElBaradei have left the square, says Ahram Online reporter Osman El-Sharoubi on Tahrir.

16:38 As protesters report more tear gas attacks around Tahrir, the president continues speaking to the presidential palace rally in Heliopolis.

 Morsi assures the crowds that he does not want to abuse his legislative power, adding that he would never use his authorities against a person or a party.

“The Constitutional Declaration does not aim to revenge anyone," Morsi said, adding that it is the opposition's right to express their discontent with the constitutional document.

However, the president slammed Mohamed Mahmoud Street protesters describing them as “paid thugs” who were pushed to attack the police, adding that he does not accept any attack on state institutions.

“We saw videos showing little kids saying they were paid to throw rocks in Mohamed Mahmoud," he said further claiming that the money stolen during the Mubarak era is now being used to disrupt the path of the revolution.

16:35 The president continues his lengthy speech at the palace, stressing his plan to move the country towards safety and stability.

“I am a citizen of this nation... therefore I suffer what its suffers” he said, assuring his audience that no one person can claim to be a leader of Egypt’s revolution.

Meanwhile, the supporting crowd chanted “the people demand the cleansing of the media," making reference to the critical press coverage of the latest Constitutional Declaration.

President Mohamed Morsi opens his speech to supporters

16:25 President Mohamed Morsi opens his speech to supporters in front of presidential palace by thanking god for “bringing all Muslims together to topple an oppressive regime and for taking us along the path towards democracy, freedom, social justice and stability."

Morsi stressed that he, as president, does not only stand with his supporters but also with his opposition, referring to the thousands gathered in Tahrir Square protesting the Constitutional Declaration issued by the president late Thursday.

“I stand with you whoever you are or wherever you are...those who support me and those who oppose me. I would never be biased towards one camp against the other.” 

16:15 Anti-Morsi protesters in the coastal city of Port Said storm FJP headquarters and tear down their sign after climbing the building during clashes with Muslim Brotherhood members, reports the Al-Ahram Arabic language news  website.

Tahrir Square fills up as thousands protest Morsi's new Constitutional Declaration (Photo: Zeinab El-Guindy)

16:10 Back in Tahrir, protesters have set fire to Central Security Forces truck. Heavy use of tear gas, Ahram Online journalist Osman Sharnoubi reports. 

16:03 "Thanks be to God, this is a key phase in achieving democracy. Prosecutor-General Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud had to leave, he should even go to trial for keeping all the [Mubarak regime] corruption files on his desk,” Amr Khodeir, head of the Economic Affairs at the Freedom and Justice Party, confidently tells Ahram Online reporter Yasmine Wali, as he sits on the floor in front of the presidential palace.

“I'm not against those in Tahrir, I just think they're misinformed. It's okay to have a different opinion but they should also respect the other viewpoint too for the sake of the country's best interest. I am sure people in Tahrir also want a better Egypt but we need to give Morsi a chance. Enough with biased media.” 

16:00 While President Morsi addresses his supporters in Heliopolis, in downtown tear gas is reported landing very close to the thousands gathered on Tahrir Square. Street battles continue between protesters and security forces. 

15:59 The president is introduced as the "leader of the revolution" as he takes the stage and begins his speech to thousands of supporters. 

15:56 President Morsi arrives at presidential palace rally in Heliopolis to give a speech. 

15:40 Back at the presidential palace in Heliopolis, Morsi supporters slam Tahrir protesters for, they say, "opposing the revolution."

"We fully support our president's decisions. Why do they want judicial powers to prevail while the judiciary needs to be completely purged?," asks Mariam El-Shafei, a member of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party who bought her two children to the demonstration.

"People who are in Tahrir now, like former tourism minister Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour, are the ones who wanted the military to remain in power and preside over the constitution. Those in Tahrir do not have principles, they're opposing for the sake of opposition, but we are defending our country, our revolution. I can't say I'm not worried that Egyptians are dividing but we assure them we, here, are not merely perusing our own interests."

15:30 Muslim Brotherhood official spokesperson Mahmoud Ghozlan says he has only heard reports of protesters storming FJP headquarters across the country but has yet to confirm them.

Speaking to state TV Channel 1, Ghozlan said that he would not be surprised if street battles had started as Tahrir demonstrators are “impolite”, as proven by the “inappropriate” words used in their chants, adding that pro-Morsi protesters at the presidential palace are “well mannered.”

During the televised phone interview, the Brotherhood spokesman said the burning of FJP headquarters only reveals the “ill-mannered nature” of anti-Morsi protesters, adding that their aim is to “burn down the country."

15:21 Former Constituent Assembly spokesman Wahid Abdel-Meguid, who resigned from the constitution-drafting body two days ago, is leading a Liberal Wafd Party march entering Tahrir Square.

Former tourism minister Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour, who served in the governments of both Essam Sharaf and Kamal Ganzouri, is also among the Wafd protesters. 

15:11 Following the resignation of presidential aide Samir Morqos, Morsi’s aide Seif Abdel-Fattah reiterates his full support for the president’s Constitutional Declaration, in an interview with Al-Ahram Arabic news website.

Morsi’s decisions, he said, are not oppressive but aimed at countering the High Constitutional Court, whose actions, he said, have added to the instability of the country, referring to its ruling against the constitutionality of Egypt’s parliament. 

15:05 President Morsi gives a speech after Friday prayers in El-Hamd mosque in New cairo. The president assures the public that the country is "heading in the right direction" and that God will support its people.

"We need to plan the path ahead and God will bless it, as victory cannot be accomplished without a plan." 

15:03 Hundreds are demonstrating in front of Prime Minister Hisham Qandil’s home in Dokki’s Messaha Square, Cairo.

“Leave," protesters chant.

14:58 Downtown's Mounira Hospital releases an official statement saying that it has received three more injured people from Mohamed Mahmoud Street clashes pushing the total number of injuries to 110 since Monday.

14:56 UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay's spokesman has voiced concerns with Morsi's Constitutional Declaration, reports Reuters.

"We are very concerned about the possible huge ramifications of this declaration on human rights and the rule of law in Egypt," Rupert Colville told a news briefing at the United Nations in Geneva. "We also fear this could lead to a very volatile situation over the next few days, starting today in fact."

14:50 The march from Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque in Mohandiseen has reached Tahrir Square, meanwhile the protest from Sayyida Zeinab Mosque is also nearing the flashpoint square.

Port Said
Demonstrators in Port said (Photo: Al-Ahram)

14:40 Clashes erupt following Friday prayers between Morsi supporters and protesters in Ahmed Galal Square in the Upper Egyptian city of Assiut, after hundreds started chanting against Morsi’s Constitutional Declaration.

“[Brotherhood Supreme Guide] Badie sold the revolution" and “Down with the rule of the Supreme Guide” shouted the protesters. 

14:35 Local offices of the Muslim Brotherhood Fredoom and Justice Party are under attack from anti-Brotherhood protesters in various locations across the country.

Reports say the FJP headquarters in Alexandria have caught fire, while eyewitnesses claim minor clashes have erupted between anti-Morsi protesters and Brotherhood members in front of the Port Said FJP offices. 

14:30 Activist Abdel-Rahman Ezz tweets in support of Morsi’s Constitutional Declaration.

“Why do you defend the traitor prosecutor-general and stand against expelling him but protest banning the Faraeen and Dream satellite channels that belong to the old regime and air lies?”

Morsi's actions, he continued, are only aimed at "getting rid of former regime figures"  

14:25 Samir Morqos, the presidential aide for issues regarding democratic transformation, resigns in objection to President Morsi’s Thursday Constitutional Declaration.

Morqos told Al-Ahram Arabic website that he was not informed of the president’s declaration beforehand and only learned about it from the televised announcement by presidential spokesman Yasser Ali.

He described the move and Morsi’s reluctance to consult with his aides as "undemocratic." 

14:15 Thousands of demonstrators gathered at the Heliopolis presidential palace congratulate each other on Morsi's latest Constitutional Declaration, celebrating what they call an "accomplishment of justice."

Flags reading “No God but Allah” together with Syrian and Palestinian flags are waved by protesters.

Ministry of Electricity trucks are reportedly providing the stage hosting Morsi supporters with electricity for the mics and speakers.

14:10 Back on Mohamed Mahmoud Street in Cairo, an emotional protester Ahmed Mounir, 15, tells Ahram Online reporter Zeinab El-Guindy that his brother was injured in last year’s clashes on the same street 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 says.

Protesters say the Central Security Forces are firing rubber bullets in Mohamed Mahmoud Street. A Molotov cocktail hits the American University in Cairo but the fire is quickly extinguished.  

14:08 Street fights have also erupted in the industrial city of Mahalla between pro and anti-Brotherhood protesters. 

14:05 Moving East to Port Said, eyewitnesses are reporting that hundreds are marching on the local office of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party. 

14:00 Meanwhile up North in the coastal city of Alexandria, clashes have erupted after Friday prayers between Morsi supporters and protesters in Qaed Ibrahim Mosque.

Activist Mahinour Al-Masry told Ahram Online, thousands fought after several protesters chanted “Down with the rule of the Supreme Guide” angering the pro-Morsi crowd present at the mosque. Stones were thrown back and forth causing injuries on both sides. 

13:51 Morsi's Thursday Constitutional Declaration is the subject of much debate and analysis during the Friday rallies.

Writer Rawah Badrawi comments on Twitter:

"Since Morsy/MB have tactically made the #Jan25 brand theirs, anyone opposing them today will be labelled "Enemies of the Revolution".

13:50 Fights erupt between worshipers in a Sixth October City mosque after the preacher labels those protesting against Morsi’s declaration as “infidels,” reports Ahram Arabic news website.

13:47 A march holding flags depicting the face of Gaber Salah, an activist killed on Tuesday during clashes with security forces, enters Tahrir Square. The demonstrators holding the flags identified themselves as friends and neighbours of Salah from Cairo’s Abdeen district, reports Al-Ahram Arabic language news website.

“Do not forget the Ministry of Interior killed Gaber” they chant.

13:42 In a bizzarre twist the opposing protests in Tahrir Square and in front of the presidential palace are chanting the same slogans:

"Who are we? We are the 25 [January] youth" and "We are free, we are free revolutionaries and will continue the path [of the revolution]"

13:41 Clouds gather over downtown Cairo and it begins to rain as street battles escalate on Mohamed Mahmoud Street - a moment of pathetic fallacy?  

13: 40 Back at the pro-Mosi demo, dozens of buses carrying supporters are arriving from across Egypt at the presidential palace, says Ahram Online reporter Yasmine Wali on the scene. The crowd is now thousands-strong and growing. 

13:35 Meanwhile, molotovs are thrown in growing street fights between protesters and security forces on Mohamed Mahmoud Street adjacent to the square.   

13:30 Protesters create a human sheild on Qasr Al-Aini street just off Tahrir Square, to separate Central Security Forices from Tahrir demonstrators in a bid to end the clashes, which have been ongoing since Monday. "Peaceful," the human shield chants, says Ahram Online reporter Zeinab El-Guindy in the field.

13:20 Numbers in Tahrir Square are increasing as 1000s now protest against Morsi's Constitutional Declaration and police brutality. Suez flags are being waved by activists from the coastal city.

Meanwhile, a significant amount of street vendors are selling posters of late president Gamal Abdel-Nasser, could this be the doing of the Egyptian Popular Current Party?  

13:15 Muslim Brotherhood supporters at the presidential palace direct anger at the media coverage of Morsi's Constitutional Declaration

Egyptian blogger @TheBigPharaoh reports on Twitter:

"MB chanting against the media at the presidential palace. Private satellite channels are starting to be an MB target" 

13:12 Former presidential candidates are spotted leading the Mostafa Mahmoud March from Mohandiseen to Tahrir Square, including Hamdeen Sabbahi, ex-head of the Arab League Amr Moussa and head of Constitution Party Mohamed ElBaradei. 

13:07 Marches leave central Cairo’s Sayeda Zeinab Square for Tahrir. Several flags of the Egyptian Current and the Social Democratic parties as well as Egyptian flags are waved by protesters. 

13:06 Suzan Ahmed, a tourist guide and activist in her thirties who is protesting in Tahrir Square with her mother and two sisters, tells Ahram Online reporter Zeinab El-Guindy: 

“I came here to oppose Morsi’s decisions which make him a new pharaoh. All his decisions have become immune to change [following the new Constitutional Declaration]. He removed the General Prosecutor to replace him with a relative of Ahmed Mekki [Justice Minister close to the Muslim Brotherhood] and that is an infringement on judicial independence.

What is happening is not only the Brotherhoodisation [of the state] but the creation of a new dictatorship … All Egyptians should take to the streets today and tomorrow to oppose [Morsi’s] decisions.” 

13:00 As marches begin moving across the capital, Ahram Online's Bel Trew speaks to Ghada Shahbender from the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, who has spent that last year co-ordinating treatment for those who lost their eyes in clashes as well as campaigning for police reform.

Shahbender met with members of the presidential team yesterday.

 "We had a meeting with one of the president's assistant and consultants who is responsible for security but we couldn’t secure any promise of the police ceasing using firearms. We were supposed to meet again tomorrow but, regrettably, I will not go to the meeting in view of the president’s recent declaration.

I am for changing the prosecutor-general, I am for the retrial of all police officers involved in violating and killing of demonstrations over the past few years and for compensation for family of martyrs and the injured.

However, these points have been used to embellish extremely dangerous decisions in the declaration which I am totally against.

This is a dictatorship in making.

The fact that Morsi has made the Shura Council and Constituent Assembly immune to being dissolved by the judiciary is extremely worrying – and his own decrees are also unappealable.

More important than financial compensation for those injured in the revolution is the transition to democracy.

Those who lost their eyes have paid a huge price for freedom, dignity and social justice.

I have personally heard from Ahmed Harara, from Malek Mostafa and from all the other young people who have lost their eyes, that what they want is a new democracy where they can live in freedom and dignity."

12:50 The march heading for Tahrir Square has just left Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque report activists at the scene. Meanwhile in Heliopolis, the pro-Morsi crowd is more than a thousand-strong in front of the presidential palace.  

12:45  Former presidential candidate and founding member of the Strong Egypt Party, Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, heads to Britain as Morsi supporters and protesters start demonstrations in Cairo, says Al-Ahram Arabic language news website.

12:30 Demonstrators at Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque in Mohandiseen are reporting that Constitution Party founder Mohamed ElBaradei has arrived ready for the march which is expected to leave soon for Tahrir Square.

12:20  Back at the Heliopolis presidential palace, the preacher leading Friday prayers slams the egyptian media, describing reporters as “magicians”  because, he says, they portray victories as defeats. Hinting at the media coverage of Morsi’s Thursday Constitutional Declaration, he told the hundreds gathered in support of the president, that the press propagates fear and panic among the people.

12:06 Protesters gather on the square and pro-Brotherhood supporters flock to the presidential palace in Heliopolis for Friday prayers. Marches expected to move after prayers to Tahrir from Mohandiseen's Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque, the working districts of Sayyida Zeinab and Shubra and Al-Fatah mosque in Ramsis square, central Cairo. 

11:50 Morsi’s contentious Constitutional Declaration is the target of much anger from the political groups involved in Friday’s rally. Here is an extract from the official statement of opposition forces behind today’s protests:

"The decisions by the President is a declaration of the fall of the rule of law and an attempt to abort the revolution and bury the process of democratization, and a blatant step for trading with the blood of the martyrs, and the establishment of a dictatorship immune from any accountability."

11:45  There is definite anti-Brotherhood sentiment on the square, says Ahram Online journalist Zeinab El-Guindy, a small march is spotted circling the square chanting "Down with the regime of the Brotherhood Supreme Guide."  

Mohamed Mahmoud
Mohamed Mahmoud Street at 11.45am Friday as protesters gather for "Eyes of Freedom" rallies (Photo: Zeinab El-Guindy)

11:40  Back on Tahrir Square, Egypt's security forces has stepped up their presence in the vicinity, Ahram Online reporters say. Central Security Forces have blocked off the streets to the Cabinet and parliament headquarters, the military reportedly put up barbed wire in the early hours of the morning. Police trucks line many of the adjacent streets.

11:30  Meanwhile, dozens of Muslim Brotherhood supporters have started to flock to the presidential palace in Heliopolis, in support of President Morsi's latest Constitutional Declaration, Ahram Online journalist Ahmed Feteha reports.  

11:20 Ahram Online reporter Zeinab El-Guindy on Tahrir Square reports that clashes are still ongoing between protesters and police on Mohamed Mahmoud Street. 

"Police are still standing on top of the lycee on Mohamed Mahmoud Street throwing rocks down onto protesters, I can see small fires in some of the parts of the school building. Meanwhile on the square two tents are being set up, one for the Sharqiya members of the Constitution Party and one for the Banha members of the Popular Current. The Popular Current told me one of their members was shot with live ammunition by police at 2am this morning just off Tahrir Square - although we have no confirmation of the use of firearms."

Muslim Brotherhood
Protesters chant against the Muslim Brotherhood on Cairo's Tahrir Square (Photo: Zeinab El-Guindy)

11:05 Several ambulances stationed in front of Omar Makram Mosque adjacent to the square having been treating protesters through the night. 

"We have had around 20 major injuries last night, all from tear gas," says Mohamed Hamdi, a paramedic. The rest he said were from rocks. 

11:00  Good morning, we are opening our live coverage of the  'Eyes of Freedom' rallies in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Minor altercations between protesters and Egypt's Central Security Forces continue on the edge of the flashpoint square. An Ahram Online journalist, at the scene, reports increased security on Qasr Al-Aini Street which has been closed off by police, and the surrounding areas.  Security forces currently facing the protesters told Ahram Online that the situation has calmed down but they expect further violence today.

Dozens have already gathered on Tahrir Square as clashes on Mohamed Mahmoud Street between protesters and security forces continued through the night ahead of planned opposition protests dubbed 'Eyes of Freedom', a reference to many protesters who lost their eyes in clashes to police birdshot bullets.

President Mohamed Morsi's surprise Thursday Constitutional Declaration, however, promoted political forces that had been planning to commemorate last year's Mohamed Mahmoud Street clashes on Friday to fine-tune their demands.

Over 30 opposition political groups had said they would take part in Friday's protests. Their demands included the dismissal of Morsi's cabinet; prosecuting police officers responsible for killing and injuring protesters in the series of clashes that followed last year's Tahrir Square uprising; and a purge and restructuring of Egypt's national police force.

However, the new declaration released late Thursday changed the focus of the expected rallies. It stated that the president's decisions cannot be overturned by any judicial authority, which would mean Morsi has legislative, executive, constitutional and now judicial authorities, leading commentators and protesters to dub Morsi the "new Pharaoh."

In addition, the controversy-dogged Constituent Assembly and Shura Council (upper house of parliament) would be immune to dissolution by a judicial body, a move that angered many.

A joint statement by several parties and movements that were already planning to take part in Friday's rallies have called for mass protests against the declaration.

Signatories to the statement included the Constitution Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Free Egyptians Party, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the Democratic Front Party, the Egypt Freedom Party, the Egyptian Popular Current and the National Association for Change.


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