Live updates: Hundreds of thousands attend rival rallies in Cairo; clashes in Alexandria

Ahram Online, Friday 28 Jun 2013

Hundreds of thousands of pro-President Morsi protesters gather at Nasr City's Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque; thousands of opposition marchers take to the streets in Cairo, Alexandria and many other cities across Egypt

Raba El-Adwyia
Islamists, members of the brotherhood, and supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, shout slogans during a protest around the Raba El-Adwyia mosque square in the suburb of Nasr City, Cairo, June 28, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)

Follow our afternoon live on this link.

18:00 Muslim Brotherhood senior member Abdel-Rahman El-Barr calls for calm after at least four Islamists are killed in clashes across Egypt in recent days.

“The voice of peace is louder than the gun,” he says during a speech at Cairo's pro-Morsi rally.

“We are all one nation... We are all Egyptians and no one can exclude the other.

“We are concerned about this nation... We will not shed blood and we will keep raising the flags of peace... Building a nation can only be accomplished by free people not thugs.

“We will not accept that the democratic choice of the people is overturned... All state institutions, including the army and police, are working to protect the legitimate government,” El-Barr says, playing down claims the security forces are working against the president.  

El-Barr criticises the opposition for refusing President Morsi’s offer of talks and then “complaining there is no dialogue.”

He goes on to warn opposition media figures and politicians that “inciting violence is a shameful act that will always haunt you... People will remember those who incited against Islam and stoked violence.” 

17:45 Ahram Online's Reem Gehad reports from Tahrir Square.

Tarek Sabry, an accountant at Egypt Bank, believes the Muslim Brotherhood "has no vision or a real plan to develop Egypt... The revolution's demands were not met because the president does not represent the revolution.

"I am calling for early presidential elections where people can freely choose their next president without deception." 

Mohamed Allam, a school senior teacher, echoes similar sentiments by saying that the revolution's demands (bread, freedom and social justice) have not been fulfilled under Morsi.

"I will not leave until these demands are met."

Many in Tahrir Square are calling on Defence Minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to replace Morsi as ruler. The standard chants of "the army and the people are one hand" are widely heard. 

17:40 The FJP headquarters in Daqahliya’s Aga and Alexandria’s Sidi Gaber have been torched by opposition protesters, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reports.

Ten have been injured, four of whom were hospitalised, during clashes in Aga, eyewitness say.

The FJP headquarters in Alexandria’s Sidi Gaber have been torched by opposition protesters (Photo: Asnap shot from Aljazera mubasher masr tv)

17:30 Ahram Online’s Sayed Gamal says the Muslim Brotherhood’s offices in Gharbiya, Kafr El-Sheikh and Daqahliya have been stormed by anti-Brotherhood protesters.

17:25 Ahram Online's Bel Trew observes a lot of anger towards opposition TV presenters at the pro-Morsi rally, with many protesters carrying posters highlighting which voices they want silenced. President Morsi has been criticised for the number of court cases brought against TV presenters, bloggers and journalists for "insulting the president" during his first year in office.

Pro-Morsi protester Emad Abel Mahmoud, 32, from Assiut, says:

"These so-called commentators or TV personalities are trying to bring Egypt down, they are clearly working for the US. Look at Bassem Youssef, he's touting a Zionist American agenda, making TV programmes for the US.

"There is a big difference between freedom of speech and being disrespectful and saying ugly words, bringing gay guests onto his show and showing people's underwear. They are insulting our dignity and religion, making fun of us. So on my poster I have CBC's Lamees and Amr Adeeb, as well a Youssef."

17:15  Bel Trew of Ahram Online speaks to Omm Ali, a 45 year old mother of two daughters from Shubra, about why she's attending the pro-Morsi rally:

"I'm here because of my religion and to support Morsi. I'm convinced Morsi is going to make everything better. If anyone else was in power, we'd be like Syria by now. Next year we're going to have lots of wheat and rice. The biggest problem we are facing is the media, particularly the TV networks owned by big businessmen.

"Morsi's first year has been brilliant for women, he gave us all the rights and freedoms we need. The criticisms of the constitution in regards to women's right are unfounded. For me as a woman the greatest freedom is the freedom of speech, which is what today is about, me and my daughters expressing our opinions."

17:00  An Ahram Online reporter at the pro-Morsi rally says the crowds are smaller than at last Friday’s Islamist rally, which was attended by hundreds of thousands. The energy of the crowd is also lower with chant leaders struggling to energise the crowd, he adds.

16:55  Safwat Abdel-Ghani of Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya's Building and Development Party takes to the stage at Cairo’s pro-Morsi rally and says "the whole world knows who the killers are," in reference to the killing of the four Islamists over the past few days. 

16.50  Hundreds continue to march from Shubra and Mostafa Mahmoud Square to an anti-Morsi protest in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

Marches from Al-Azhar Mosque and Sayeda Zeinab have already arrived in the square.

16:45  Security forces launch tear gas to break up clashes between rival protesters near Sidi Gabr train station in Alexandria, MENA reports.

More security forces arriving to deal with the violence which has injured 40 so far, according to Ahram Online’s Sayed Gamal.

16:35  Heading west to Beheira governorate, around 4,000 anti-Morsi protesters are demonstrating outside the local governor's office in Damanhour, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reports.

A banner reading "Closed until the departure of the Brotherhood" hangs on the building. Police are hovering nearby.

Gunshots are heard in the city centre during an argument between anti-Morsi Rebel campaigners and Brotherhood members. Calm is restored after local residents intervene.

16:25 Clashes in Alexandria

Supporters and opponents of Egypt's Islamist president clash in Alexandria, Egypt, Friday, June 28, 2013. (Photo: AP)

16:20 Ahram Online's Ahmed Abdel-Rasoul speaks to three women supporters of President Morsi, who wish to remain anonymous, at Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque.

“The opposition does not want to help the president, in fact it has been fighting him since day one,” one woman says.

“The media is fooling the people by telling them lies about bread and fuel shortages,” another says.

The third woman prays God will help President Morsi against his opponents.  

16:05  All Brotherhood offices in Alexandria are closed and its local leaders have not been seen on the streets or been reachable by phone, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reports.

Large numbers of people from the historically pro-Islamist Wardiyan, Al-Qabary and Al-Ma'wa districts of Alexandria are marching to demand the removal of President Morsi.

15:40  Back in Alexandria, violent clashes are taking place between hundreds of anti-government protesters and members of the Brotherhood outside it’s local headquarters.

Gunshots can be heard in the vicinity of the clashes, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reports.

15.35  A march has left Sphinx Square in Cairo's Mohandiseen calling on people to protest against President Morsi on 30 June. The march is moving towards Agouza in the presence of security forces and an ambulance. Participants are distributing Egyptian flags and red cards to drivers and chanting against the Muslim Brotherhood. 

15.30  Meanwhile, numbers are increasing in Cairo’s Tahrir Square as several anti-Morsi marches arrive, including those from Sayeda Zeinab and Al-Azhar Mosque. Protesters carrying Egyptian flags and holding up red cards are chanting, "On 30 June at Ittihadiya, down with Morsi and the Brotherhood." 

Tahrir Square
Anti-Morsi gathering in Tahrir Square 28, June 2011 (Photo: Tarek Shalaby)

15:25  Heading to the Nile Delta’s Sharqiya – where a young man was shot dead in street battles between rival demonstrators on Thursday – hundreds of anti-government protesters are taking part in several marches across the city. Protesters are chanting "Leave! Leave!"

15:15  Ahram Online's Ahmed Abdel-Rasoul talks with Abdel-Monsef and Sheikh Hamed from Sohag who came to Cairo to support President Morsi.

"The [anti-Morsi] Tamarod signatures are fake. The president has been fought since his first day in office, despite his efforts to provide enough bread and gas cylinders," Sheikh Hamad says.

"We came to defend Morsi’s democratic legitimacy. The opposition is calling for blood and doesn’t care if people are killed,”' he adds. “I took time off from work and I will join the sit-in in Cairo.”

"If the opposition can mobilise millions in the streets why can't they participate in parliamentary elections in order to show their opposition to the president and form their own government," Abdel-Monsaf asks.

15:00  Moving north to the Nile Delta’s flashpoint city of Mansoura, where three have died in clashes between pro- and anti-Morsi protesters since Wednesday, four anti-regime marches have set out towards Al-Shaheed (Al-Mohafza) Square, Egyptian Popular Current member Abdel-Meguid Rashed tells Ahram Online.

Tents have already been erected in the square, a rallying point for the protests, in preparation for a planned sit-in on 30 June.

“Opposition marchers are everywhere in Mansoura. We demand the overthrow of this regime,” Rashed says. “There are no pro-Morsi protests today in Mansoura.”

Activist Khaled Abdel-Rahman tells Ahram Online that several thousand protesters are now in the square, and the number is rapidly increasing.

14:55 Yasser Sarhan, tells Ahram Online’s Osman El-Sharnoubi that many of the opposition are against Sharia law and don’t want it implemented in Egypt.

“They hire thugs to kill protesters,” he says. “If the opposition are so strong they should undergo parliamentary elections and form a government of their liking then try to impeach the president through parliament.”

14:45  There is a festive atmosphere outside the mosque as national songs continue to play and protesters have picnics in the gardens on the side of the road.

Pro-Morsi protester Osama Eid, a student of Sharia law at Al-Azhar University, tells Ahram Online that not all members of the opposition are remnants of the old regime. Many are actually revolutionaries who have allied themselves with Mubarak loyalists in order to bring down the president.

14:30  Back to the canal city of Suez, hundreds of Islamists from the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya and other groups left for Cairo in buses this morning to attend the pro-Morsi rallies, MENA reports.

"We are taking part so as to urge everybody to respect the legitimacy of the president," FJP member Abbas Abdel-Aziz told MENA.

14:20  Hossam, a Nasr City local who works for his father’s security company, tells Ahram Online's Ahmed Abdel-Rasoul that many protesters from the governorates do not know where they are in Cairo.

"They ask us where they are in Cairo and I tell them to go back to where they came from," Hossam says.

Hossam, who is against President Morsi, says he and other local residents do not want more sit-ins or protests.

Patriotic songs from the 1973 war period are being blasted from speakers near the mosque.  14:10 A number of opposition forces released a statement on Thursday asserting they would not accept the return of Mubarak-era officials to power as an alternative to President Morsi and his regime.

"The revolution will not tolerate any opportunists who aim for personal gain," the statement read. "We will not allow for the return of Mubarak [officials] or the military."

April 6 Youth Movement, Revolutionary Socialists and Strong Egypt Party are among the groups that signed the statement.

13:55  Volunteers armed with sticks are checking people’s IDs at checkpoints around Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque. Bearded men with walkie talkies are organising the protesters.

Pro-Morsi protesters from Egypt's governorates begin erecting tents in preparation for a sit-in outside the mosque.

Photos of Muslim Brotherhood members killed during protests over the past week are displayed on the main stage.

Tagarod campaigner are collecting signatures in support of President Morsi. Young people are collecting donations in support of the Syrian revolution. 

13:50 Opposition supporters are on their way to Cairo's Tahrir Square. Hundreds have joined marches from Mostafa Mahmoud Square, Sayeda Zeinab, Al-Azhar Mosque and Shubra. The marches were called for by the 30 June Front. Similar protests are expected to take place in other governorates as well. The main opposition marches are planned for Sunday, the anniversary of President Morsi's innauguration.

13:40 Outside the capital, hundreds of opposition supporters are marching from the Al-Qaed Ibrahim Mosque in the centre of Alexandria, and the eastern Dawaran Jihan area towards the upscale Sidi Gaber district.

Dozens of protesters are waving Egyptian flags and anti-Brotherhood placards along the city's corniche. Others are holding up red signs reading "leave."

Dozens of Muslim Brotherhood members, meanwhile, are gathering in the 15 May Square to form committees to protect the group's local headquarters, MENA reports.

13:30  Organisers at the rally announce the main event and speeches will be postponed until 4pm due to the heat. Temperatures in the Egyptian capital will top 35 degrees celsius this afternoon.

13:25  The preacher at Rabaa El-Adawiya Mosque blasts “anti-Islamic” comments by unnamed individuals. These people are “rebelling against legitimacy,” he adds.

He also calls on God to guide the opposition to the correct path.

The age of the “sacred rulers” is over because President Morsi admitted his own mistakes during his first year in office, he adds.

13:10  Click on this link for Ahram Online's story on the launch of the pro-Morsi National Alliance for Legitimacy Support.

13:05  In the canal city of Suez, an intense military presence can been seen ahead of several marches planned by Rebel and other opposition movements. Marches will set out from three mosques after Friday prayers towards the iconic El-Arbaeen Square.

The Third Field Army has been deployed at major thoroughfares and around strategic buildings in Suez, including the local governor's office, the court  complex and the security directorate.

13:00 The Friday sermon at Rabaa Al-Adawiya mosque began with the preacher urging Egyptians to stay united and condemning the spilling of blood. He also stressed that the recurring fuel shortage, which has plagued the country for weeks, should not divide the nation. He also said that legitimacy is a red line and those who don’t respect it today will not have legitimacy tomorrow.

12:55  Regarding the Rebel (Tamarod) campaign Hamdy says, “If they gathered 15 million signatures, the Islamists gathered more and it is enough to see the numbers of protesters at last Friday’s pro-Morsi protests, as well today’s protests, to realise there are more of us than them.”

12:37  Ahram Online's Osman Osman El-Sharnoubi says there are already thousands of protesters outside the mosque and the numbers are increasing by the minute.

12:35  Hamdy, a teacher from Alexandria in his mid-30s, is joining today’s protest.

“I am not speaking about achievements, the president has made mistakes and he's admitted them. But it is unacceptable to get rid of him after one year. It is better that he completes the four years. If the opposition ousts the president today, the Islamists are going to oust the next president and we will not have stability. We have a contract with Mohamed Morsi for four years, he should complete it.”

12:25   Protester Reda Gomaa, a Cairo-based physician, praises the speech delivered by President Morsi on Wednesday evening in which he listed the achievements of his first year in office.

“His speech was complete and appealed to all sections of the public,” Gomaa says. “Anyone who is impartial liked it.”

Gomaa says he decided to join the pro-Morsi rally after watching the speech.

President Morsi had many accomplishments in his first year, Gomaa adds, including pushing the economy forward.  

12:20  A large stage has been set up in front of the mosque's main gate by the Legitimacy Support Alliance, a newly-formed umbrella group encompassing 11 Islamic parties. The Alliance is tasked with coordinating the protests and the planned sit-in. 

(Photo: Ahmed Abdel-Rasoul)

12:10  Starting in Cairo, FJP Spokesman Nader Omran told Ahram Online's Bel Trew why they are protesting today: 

"We're gathering on Friday to send this message: protest all you want in a peaceful way, gather if you want to convince people that the president hasn't done enough or hasn't done anything at all but step over legitimacy and that really is a red line.

We want to send this message and to show that the majority is with the president. 

The people who chose the president have the right to protect their choice. They want to keep their president, to have him for four years, to give him the full chance to apply his vision.

If some people are not pleased with his performance, they can go to polling stations and they can change it."

12:00 Good morning, we open our live coverage of today's rallies, for more background on pro-Morsi demonstration please click here

Egypt is steeling itself Friday for the first of two rival protests scheduled in the lead up to President Mohamed Morsi's first anniversary in office.

Today's protest entitled "legitimacy is a red line" is called for by the Islamic alliance, a coalition of Islamist parties in support of the president spearhead by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP).

Rallying in front of Rabaa Al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo's Nasr City, Morsi's supporters argue that the president was democratically elected and the only way to remove him is through the ballot box at the end of his term.

That argument clashes with nationwide anti-government protests set to take place Sunday, which organisers are hoping will bring millions of Egyptians to the streets. They want nothing less than the president's resignation: grassroots anti-Morsi 'Rebel' campaign has collected some 18 million signatures in support of their goal.

The Muslim Brotherhood has suffered from a number of attacks on their offices in the governorates in the lead up to the anniversary.

The night before Friday's rallies the Islamist group's headquarters in Morsi's hometown of Zagazig, in the Nile Delta, was attacked leaving one dead and 26 injured. 

Street battles between rival protest groups have erupted in a number of the provinces across the northern region: in Mansoura one died and over 200 were wounded. Fifty-three people were injured in Sharqiya and two in Gharbiya in similar confrontations.

Today's open-ended demonstration is the second such show of strength by Islamist allies of the president within a week.

Last Friday saw hundreds of thousands of Morsi supporters gather at the same location in Cairo to voice support for the president and to 'reject violence.'

At the FJP's Thursday press conference, senior party figure Gehad El-Haddad echoed the president's tone, blaming the violence on "thuggery" encouraged by the opposition. He also accused the anti-Morsi 'Rebel' campaign of "joining forces with the former regime."

El-Haddad went on to stress that Friday's Islamist rallies would avoid Tahrir Square, where anti-Morsi protesters have already begun to erect tents in advance of a planned open-ended sit-in.

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