Live updates 2: Tens of thousands in Tahrir Square to oppose Morsi's decree

Hazel Haddon, Yasmine Fathy, Salma Shukrallah, Nada Hussein, Tuesday 27 Nov 2012

Multiple marches converge on Tahrir Square in protest at President Morsi's recent constitutional declaration; opposition protests seen across governorates, while president's supporters also hold rallies

A general view of Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday , Nov. 27, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)

21:40 That's all from the live blog for tonight.

In summary, Tuesday saw one of the biggest demonstrations in Egypt over the past year, as protesters rejecting the constitutional declaration announced by President Mohamed Morsi rallied in numbers of around a hundred thousand in Tahrir Square, as well as in their tens of thousands in various other Egyptian governorates throughout the country. There were also more sporadic pro-Brotherhood protests in governorates outside Cairo, and reports of clashes between both sides in Mahalla, with dozens injured.

Tens of thousands still fill Tahrir Square and its neighbouring streets as we close the live blog. A number of tents have been put up in the square’s central island, as well as in the square’s sidewalks, as some protesters declare they will be continuing their sit-in. 

On Friday, several political parties and groups, including the Egyptian Popular Current, the Constitution Party, the April 6 Youth Movement, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Free Egypt Party, as well as many others, announced that they intend to occupy the square for one week, in protest at Morsi's constitutional declaration.

For the first part of today's live updates, please see here.  Thank you for following us, and stay tuned shortly for a wrap-up piece analysing the day's events. 

21:30 The Muslim Brotherhood's official English Twitter account, @Ikhwanweb, has said that Brotherhood headquarters in Mansoura and Alexandria are being attacked by protesters.

Protestors attacking Muslim Brotherhood HQ in Mansoura in absence of police and security forces

Muslim Brotherhood in Alexandria ordered all members to evacuate its HQ under attack by angry protestors to avoid violence and bloodshed

21:15 There are more reports of gang rape in Tahrir Square, reports Bel Trew. An Egyptian girl was mobbed by dozens of men by the Omar Makram mosque. This follows at least two reports of incidents close to the Hardees building on the corner of Tahrir Square, a notorious area for these attacks.

21:10 Sentiment among many of the protesters in Tahrir Square is running high, with many vigorously contesting Brotherhood assertions that they represent 'feloul' or former regime interests.

Khaled Fahmy, professor of history at the American University in Cairo (AUC) captures the mood of many, writing on Twitter: 

Just back from Tahrir. It is the 19th day of the Revolution

21:05 As of 9pm, there are reports of anti-Morsi demonstrations of varying sizes throughout the country, from Upper Egypt (Assiut, Luxor, Sohag), to the Nile Delta (Mansoura, Tanta, and Mahalla) as well as in Egypt's two largest cities, Cairo and Alexandria.

21:00 The officialShura Council-appointed, National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) released a statement after a nine-hour meeting, stating that the constitutional declaration contains violations, particularly the articles which render the president’s decisions immune from appeal.

Head of the NCHR and of the Constituent Assembly, Hossam El-Gheriany, demands that the president issue a statement interpreting Article 2 of the constitutional declaration. He added that Article 6 of the declaration, which states that the president can take measures against those working against the revolution, national unity, safety of the nation or to hinder the work of state institutions, is unnecessary. 

20:50 To counter the mob sexual assaults that continue to happen in Tahrir during protests, a new initiative has been launched by independent activists and rights groups such as the Nazra Institute for Feminist Studies, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, and HarassMap.

Ahram Online reporter Bel Trew speaks to Leil-Zahra, an activist who has been working on the project and similar initiatives like the End Sexual Harrasment Campaign.

"First of all we're working on a guide to advise women on how to dress when going to the square,and for men on how to help a girl who is being attacked.

So for example, give the girl your back to protect her, don't smother, get her to a safe space then make sure you get woman to look after her and give her emotional support.

The guide will be distributed among activists and then a simplified version will be blown up to A3 size and hung around the square. We are also running a hotline phone number,which is essentially a phone tree to reach volunteers who will intervene and get the girl out.

All the volunteers wear a pink band to identify them, as one of the biggest problems the girls who get attacked face in the chaos is trying to work out who is helping them and who is actually attacking them. On Friday, "Tahrir Bodyguard", one of the initatives, will set up an awareness tent on the square."

20:40 Clashes continue in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla, a city renown for its labour activism, between members of the Muslim Brotherhood and opposition youth, according to Ahram Arabic news website. The clashes reportedly led to an exchange of stones and firecrackers, and one firecracker hit an electricity pylon, cutting off power to the city.

In the Red Sea city of Hugharda, hundreds protested in the El-Dahar Square against the constitutional declaration. The protest began at Hugharda Court earlier in the day, and protesters chanted “Down with the rule of the Supreme Guide.”

In Tanta, protesters demonstrated against the constitutional decree in El-Shohada Square, which is near the Freedom and Justice Party headquarters. The protesters also burned Brotherhood posters.

20:10 Former presidential candidate and rights lawyer, Khaled Ali, speaks to the crowds in Tahrir Square.

“The first thing Morsi did was to re-establish Mubarak’s union law...the right to strike should be granted,” Ali states, as the crowd cheers loudly, applauding his speech. 

20:00 Some reports are coming in of protests in Upper Egypt. 

In Sohag, hundreds of protesters, including women, are protesting against the constitutional declaration

In Assiut, hundreds of protesters are also demonstrating against Morsi’s constitutional declaration. 

19:50 The State Council Judges Club released a statement condemning the recent constitutional declaration, describing it as "illegitimate" and asking Morsi to reconsider his decision.

19:40 Ahram Online reporter Osman Sharnoubi says that numbers have increased in Tahrir Square after the arrival of the rallies from Shubra Square and Moustafa Mahmoud mosque.

The square, and the streets leading to the Egyptian Museum and Qasr Al-Nil Bridge, are packed with protesters. 

19:30 A variety of reports are coming in about protests - and some clashes - outside of the capital. 

In the city of Damietta on the Mediterranean coast, at least a thousand protesters have been holding a rally for the last couple of hours. The rally was organised by political powers including the April 6 Youth Movement, the Constitution Party and the Egyptian Popular Current.

Protesters chanted against the president’s constitutional declaration and the Muslim Brotherhood. They also reportedly did not allow Ahmed Shafiq and Mubarak loyalists to join them.

In Tanta in the Nile Delta, protesters torched the façade of the Freedom and Justice Party’s offices. 

Meanwhile in Tahrir Square, the march from the Moustafa Mahmoud Mosque in the upmarket suburb of Mohandeseen has arrived, led by former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi.

A minute or two later, the march from Shubra also arrived, accompanied by prominent liberal figure and former MP Amr Hamzawy.

19:25 The Egyptian Popular Current has announced from Tahrir Square that they will continue with their sit-in until the constitutional declaration is cancelled.

The movement further called for people to commit acts of civil disobedience until the demands are met.

19:20 The April 6 Youth Movement in Port Said filed a complaint against the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, as well as former member MP Akram El-Shaer, accusing them of inciting members of Islamist groups to attack protesters with fireworks at a rally last Friday.

A statement was released by the movement holding the party responsible for any violence that erupts during similar demonstrations planned on Tuesday to protest the president’s constitutional declaration.

The youth group also accused El-Shaer of holding a meeting on Monday with several Islamist groups in the city’s Fardous Mosque at which he asked them to confront the planned Tuesday demonstrations.

The two April 6 members who filed the complaint were Mahmoud Naguib and Tamer El-Ghadban.  

19:15 Ahram Online's Bel Trew says that there have been eyewitness accounts of an attack on a girl by a mob near Hardees; her clothes were reportedly ripped off. Several similar incidents were reported in the past few days. A group called “Tahrir Bodyguards” has been recently formed to combat sexual harassment, which has become common during mass demonstrations in the square.

18:55 Political analyst, Amr Shobaki, told Ahram Online:

“Morsi has left legitimacy; the High Constitutional Court has said the declaration is void.”

“People have a right to stand against it. Protests will continue if Morsi does not back down."

18:45 Crowds are chanting “Morsi is illegitimate” in the Moustafa Mahmoud march on Galaa Bridge, which leads to Tahrir Square.

18:40 The Shubra march has reached downtown Cairo, with thousands chanting "Down with Morsi," reports Ahram Online's Lina Wardani.

18:35 Commenting on the protests across Egypt, the Salafist Nour Party asserted that their decision not to protest on Tuesday was for the good of the nation.

"There is nothing easier than mobilising for mass protests, but we preferred the good of the nation, and to avoid clashes we, along with the Freedom and Justice Party, decided not to participate," said the Nour Party via Twitter.

Earlier, several Islamist parties and groups had announced that they would be taking part in mass protests to voice their support for the president's constitutional declaration. On Monday night, however, it was announced that the pro-Morsi protests will be cancelled in Cairo to avoid any clashes.

18:30 Cairo Economic Court's general assembly has announced that it will freeze its work, except for cases related to those detained pending investigations.

Head of Cairo Economic Court Omar El-Qamari stated that the general assembly supported all the decisions announced by the Judges Club on Thursday, rejecting the president’s constitutional declaration and calling for a judges' strike.

El-Qamari added that the court rejected the Supreme Judicial Council's meeting with President Morsi and demanded that they take the necessary measures against “Judges for Egypt,” judges who support Morsi’s decree, arguing that they have violated judicial laws and traditions.

18:20 The Shubra march reaches Ahmed Helmi Street on its way to Tahrir Square. Ahram Online reporter Lina Wardani says that the end of the march cannot be seen from where it begins on Ahmed Helmi Street.

“This is our first time to participate in a protest. We are worried that the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to bring down the Egyptian state and build their own state instead. We are concerned about what they are doing with the media and the judiciary,” Magda Fawzi and Narges Abdo, middle-aged Coptic women, told Wardani.

Scuffles between opponents of President Morsi and members of the Freedom and Justice Party have reportedly taken place in El-Mahalla El-Kobra, Gharbiya governorate in the Nile Delta.

Ahram Arabic news website has reported that a mutual exchange of rock and Molotov cocktail-throwing led to several being injured, and they were later transferred to El-Mahalla public hospital.

18:15 In Alexandria, a centre of Islamist politics, rival marches are taking place, according to Mahinour El-Masri, an activist and journalist on the ground.

Despite the Muslim Brotherhood's instructions to its supporters not to protest in solidarity with Morsi’s declaration, local Brotherhood members and Morsi supporters are protesting at El-Qaed Ibrahim Mosque.

Meanwhile, two marches are taking place in opposition to the president's declaration; one from Mansheya, which reportedly numbers in the tens of thousands, and a second march from Victoria Street.

Medhat El-Hadad, an official in the Muslim Brotherhood office in Alexandria, stated to official news agency MENA that the Brotherhood in Alexandria is going to participate in a huge rally to demonstrate the support for Morsi's decree.

“Everybody should know that Alexandria supports President Morsi,” he said. 

He also added that he held a meeting with Alexandria's security chiefs in order to secure the headquarters of the FJP, some of which were subject to attacks during protests at the weekend.

Official spokesperson of the military general Ahmed Mohamed Ali (Photo: Al-Ahram)

Former MP and co-founder of El-Adl Party Mostafa El-Naggar said on Twitter a few minutes ago:

"I demand the Muslim Brotherhood in Alexandria does not protest and protects their headquarters only, and that the Ministry of Interior do its job. The blood of all Egyptians is priceless."

18:05 Ahram Online’s Osman Sharnoubi reports that Tahrir Square is packed, with some rallies still to arrive.


The famous chant of “Sit-in until the regime falls,” is echoing in the square. 

According to activist Leil Zahra, volunteers from the “End Sexual Harassment” group are in the square wearing pink arm bands, to counter any harassment issues. 

Ahram Online's Sara El-Rashidi has been interviewing prominent lawyer at the Court of Cassation, Amir Salem, who is in Tahrir.

Salem argues that Morsi's recent declaration is unconstitutional, and in fact is an attempt by Morsi and the Brotherhood to create an Islamic caliphate. He bitterly criticises what he sees as an unacceptable attack on rule of law and on Egypt's judiciary, arguing that:

"No one, not even Mubarak, challenged the constitutional court and tried to spoil its reputation."

17:55 Despite a high turnout in Tahrir Square and neighbouring streets, Ikhwanweb (the Brotherhood's English-language website and Twitter account) insists that demonstrations against the constitutional declaration lack support.

"We support peaceful protests & strong opposition; low protesters turnout today indicates lack of support among Egyptians unlike #Jan25” said the Ikhanweb account on Twitter. 

17:45 Moving north-east to the Delta city of Mansoura, where it is being reported that hundreds of protesters have blocked the major road heading to the governorate's headquarters, in protest at Morsi's constitutional declaration.

The protesters chanted against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood saying: “Nasser said it before, do not trust the Muslim Brotherhood.” 

17:40 The official spokesperson of the Egyptian Armed Forces, Colonel Ahmed Ali, denied rumours spreading online as well on some TV channels that military police have been preventing buses from outside greater Cairo from entering the capital. The official spokesperson said that the military police are there only to secure the highway and is not authorised to deal with civilians.

“We reiterate that the Egyptian armed forces' loyalty is only to the Egyptian people and the Egyptian territories,” he said.

March made up of around three thousand protesters has just started from Shubra Square, heading to Tahrir (Photo: Lina wardani)

17:35 The Supreme Judicial Council is holding an emergency session to discuss a response to the statement released by the presidency on Monday evening, announcing that the constitutional declaration will remain unchanged. A source from the justice ministry told Ahram Arabic news website that the judges did not approve of the declaration, contrary to what the statement said.

17:30 The Mostafa Mahmoud march set off for Tahrir several minutes ago. Thousands of protesters are chanting “Sell the revolution Badie [the Supreme Guide of the Brotherhood]” and “The people want to bring down the regime.” One protester holds a sign saying "Feloul are liars, Brotherhood are liars, the military are liars, revolutionaries continue."

Meanwhile, Ahram Online's Osman Sharnoubi reports from Tahrir: 

“This is definitely the biggest protest I have seen in Tahrir Square since the 18 days [of January 2011] including the anti-Essam Sharaf Cabinet protests, the pro-sharia demonstrations, and those held on the anniversary of January 25.”  

17:25 Lina Wardani, Ahram Online reporter, says that a march made up of around three thousand protesters has just started from Shubra Square, heading to Tahrir. Mohamed Metwalli, a protester in the march, said that he is against the constitutional amendments because it gives the president “unlimited powers.” He added that “Morsi should either leave or cancel the declaration.”

Kamal Abu Eita
Kamal Abu Eita, the head the Independent Union of Real Estate Tax Agency Employees (photo: Hossam el-Hamalawy)

The Fatah Mosque march in central Cairo has increased and now numbers in the thousands. Gameela Ismail, one of the founding members of the Constitution Party, is leading the march. “We will not give up until Morsi cancels the constitutional decree,” she told Ahram Online.

Ahram Online reporter Sarah El-Rashidi talks to a legal expert in Tahrir Square who wants to remain anonyomous.

"The declaration is unconstitutional because the president is not authorised to fortify the decison. He is not authorised to fire the prosecutor-general, since Law 46 from 1972 states that he cannot be fired. We are not living in a revolutionary period - it ended when Morsi became a president. Thus he doesn't have the authority to augment his powers as per the recent declaration Article 6, and other articles protecting the Constituent Assembly and the Shura Council. My main fear is the fortification of Morsi's decision."

Tahrir Square is now fully packed with protesters. All streets leading to it, with the exception of Qasr Al-Aini which is sealed off by a newly-built wall, are full of people walking to and from the square. Egyptian flags dominate the scene. Flags from an array of non-Islamist parties can be seen all around; flags and banners of the Wafd Party, the Egyptian Popular Current, the Free Egyptians Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, and the Tahrir Party, as well as others, are among them. 

17:20 Political analyst Moetaz-Bellah Abdel-Fattah tells Ahram Arabic website: 

"Morsi shot himself in the foot...his declaration united all political forces and opposition against the president...If Morsi wanted to make any accomplishments he should have united all political forces around him but he only focused on winning the elections, and depended on his supporters alone,” he added.

Ex-presidential candidate and head of the leftist Egyptian Popular Current Hamdeen Sabbahi has arrived, according to the Popular Current Twitter page, at the thousands-strong march in front of Moustafa Mahmoud Mosque in the Giza district of Mohandeseen. He will be at the front line as the march leaves for Tahrir after sundown prayers. 

17:15  Kamal Abu Eita, the head the Independent Union of Real Estate Tax Agency Employees, has joined a march from the Moustafa Mahmoud Mosque in Mohandseen. Abu Eita, a long time labour activist, said that he does not trust the Brotherhood any more. He added that he stood in the last parliamentary elections on the Brotherhood’s electoral list, but now regrets it.


"I now know that the Brotherhood does not work for the nation but for themselves only." He also complained that the Constituent Assembly alienated farmers and workers. "All independent syndicates are here today to protest against Moris. Egypt is not all Brotherhood."

17:10 Khaled Metwali, a member of the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Coalition, told Ahram Online that the group plans to remain in the square until Morsi backtracks on his constitutional decree. "If the decree is not removed, we will demand that Morsi himself leave. And then we can have new presidential elections.”

Lina El Wardani, an Ahram Online journalist who is on her way from Tahrir Square to Shubra's march wrote on Twitter: "I haven't seen such large numbers since Mubarak's fall in February 2011."

Lawyer Fatma El-Zahraa Al-Ghoneim of the appeal court, who was marching with the lawyers to Tahrir Square, told Ahram Online:

"What Morsi did is illegal, this declaration is not constitutional; its a void decree. We demand the return of [prosecutor-general] Abdel-Meguid, not because of any personal virtue he has, but in accordance with the law. Changing the prosecutor-general should be done legally, and Morsi had promised not to sack him and and to abide by the law”. 

In Tanta, hundreds of protesters from political parties and movements against the constitutional declaration have been holding a rally on Tuesday afternoon, chanting against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. “We are the youth of the January 25 Revolution, we are not Salafists or Brotherhood,” and “Down with Morsi, Morsi is from the Muslim Brotherhood too.”

The rally so far is moving through the major streets of the city. Significant clashes are being reported between the protesters and Brotherhood supporters.

17:05 Photos: Ahram Online's Mai Shaheen captures some of the scenes of Tahrir Square today here 

17:00 Good evening and welcome to the second part of Ahram Online's coverage of the day's mass demonstrations. You can find the morning's coverage here.Marches by artists, journalists and part of the lawyers' syndicate have already made their way to the square, but most of the planned marches to Tahrir Square are due to happen this afternoon.

The central square is already full of protesters who are opposing Morsi's Thursday Constitutional Declaration. Ahram Online correspondents estimate the numbers present to be in the tens of thousands. 

The Muslim Brotherhood had initially planned to hold rival protests in Cairo and in other governorates, but announced that the Cairo march was cancelled to "avoid bloodshed." There have, however, been sporadic pro-Morsi protests in various governorates outside of the capital, including Alexandria on the coast, and Assiut in Upper Egypt, where thousands of Azhar students and faculty have reportedly demonstrated in support of the president. 

Although demonstrations within Tahrir are largely peaceful, sporadic clashes with police continue to occur on the fringes, including Simon Bolivar Square in the west and Mohamed Mahmoud Street in the south – both sites of ongoing clashes between small groups of protesters and the police over the last few days. One protester, Fathy Gareeb from the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, has died as a result of tear gas exposure in Simon Bolivar Square. His death is the third protester death in the last week – 16-year-old 6 April Youth Movement supporter Gaber "Jika" Salah in Cairo, and 15-year-old Islam Masoud, a Muslim Brotherhood supporter who died in Damanhour in the Nile Delta. 

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