Live updates 1: Thousands in Tahrir ahead of anti-Morsi protests

Bel Trew, Randa Ali, Yasmine Wali, Ekram Ibrahim, Tuesday 27 Nov 2012

Hundreds gather on Cairo's flashpoint square to protest President Morsi's Constitutional Declaration; Muslim Brotherhood, Salafist Calling and Gamaa Al-Islamaya demonstrate in Alexandria despite Brotherhood cancelling rally

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

17:00  That's it from the afternoon team, follow our live updates on the events as they develop through the evening here

16:57 Political analyst Rabab El-Mahdi offers her take on Tahrir.

“The masses in Tahrir Square reflect that there is popular opposition to President Morsi’s Constitutional Declaration, it surpasses the old regime remnants vs Brotherhood dichotomy, and expresses a wider public rejection to the Morsi's declaration.”

16:55 Thousands have now joined the march in Fatah mosque which has begun to head to Tahrir Square, says Ahram Online Randa Ali.

“Be happy Mubarak, Mursi is following your footsteps," the protesters are chanting.

16:51 Hundreds have begun to gather at the Fatah Mosque in Ramses Square. Protesters are waving flags of the liberal Free Egyptians Party, the liberal Democratic Front Party and the leftist Tagammu Party. The march will head to Tahrir Square.

16:48 Abdullah Fathy, Deputy Head of Judges Club, told Ahram Arabic language website that four out of eight primary courts have freezed work on Tuesday.

The Appeal Courts will also freeze their work on Thursday. The Judges Club will organise an open demonstration to Tahrir Square if the president insists on keeping the Constitutional Declaration.

16:44 Hundreds from the Independent Current of the Engineering Syndicate, a reformist current within the syndicate, are marching in Ramses to Tahrir Square and chanting against the Constitutional Declaration and the Muslim Brotherhood, reports Ahram Online journalist Salma Shukrallah.

16:40 The European Union has threatened to decrease aid to Egypt if President Mohamed Morsi insists on implementing his controversial constitutional decree, a senior member of the EU Parliament told German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau.

"If Morsi chooses the road of dictatorship then the funds pumped into the Egyptian market will be less," Elmar Brok, head of the EU Parliament's foreign affairs committee, said.

16:30 April 6 Movement refuted that their members were involved in attacks on Muslim Brotherhood offices in President Morsi's hometown, Sharkia Governorate and on an Muslim brotherhood demonstration in Salheya city.

16:15 Egypt's Judges' Club denounce the president's office recalcitrance on his Constitutional Declaration and assert they will continue escalating their strike and work to press for the executive to retract his decree.

In a statement released on Tuesday the Judges' Club assert they are struggling to preserve the judicial branch's independence.

16:05 Ahram Online reporter Zeinab El-Guindy discusses the major issues she overheard on Tahrir:

"From most of the people I spoke, Article 2, which prevents Morsi's declarations and decisions from being subject to appeal, was the major point of contention. This, they tell me, gives him more power than Mubarak.

Today is for me, the biggest protest against the Muslim Brotherhood that I have witnessed since the start of the January 25 Revolution. However I'm not sure this protest will be enough to stop the declaration. The president refuses to back down, meanwhile the Brotherhood believe they are in the right, in addition there is an increasing polarisation between the Islamists and the opposition forces - there is no ground for dialogue.

On the square, the traffic is being blocked by Popular Committee members who are trying to prevent children from entering the square for their own safety. However, they have not been successful as many schools are closed across Cairo, allowing hundreds of youth to join the ongoing street fights at the corner of the square.

Also, noticeably, unlike other million man protests, the flags of Muslim Brotherhood and Freedom and Justice Party as well Morsi’s pins have disappeared."

16:00 Thousands of lawyers enter Tahrir Square from their syndicate chanting “the people want the fall of the regime.”

lawyers 2
Thousands of lawyers enter Tahrir Square from their syndicate

Meanwhile on the opposite side of the square, at Qasr Al-Nil entrance, another march arrives waving the flags of the Egyptian Popular Current.

15:55 Sitting in the tent-city of Tahrir, Ahram Online journalist Zeinab El-Guindy speaks to newcomers and some familiar faces:

“We are insisting on stopping this declaration," says well-known farmers rights activist Shahinda Maklad, "We cannot tolerate any more martyrs or push the country into a civil war.”

She added that Egyptians already had a tyrannical president during the time of Mubarak and now are facing the same problem in Morsi thanks to the Constitutional Declaration.

"Morsi has done nothing to do anything to make the people stand by him," says two women in their 50sm “He should take steps towards the people instead of issuing a dictatorial declaration, like, for example, implementing a minimum and maximum wage."

15:50 BREAKING: Fatehy Gareeb from Socialist Popular Alliance Party has just passed away in Galaa Hospital. Gareeb, who was in his sixties, suffocated from tear gas in Simon Bolivar Square, confirms media spokesperson Gihan Shaban.

15:48 Egypt is in trouble, says presidential adviser and prominent writer Ayman El-Sayad on his official Twitter account.

“The only positive thing that is happening today is that we managed to convince the Muslim Brotherhood to postpone their rally."

Morsi's aide thinks that the crisis if far from being over and that the only certainties are that the president will not cancel his declaration and the opposition will not budge on this demand.

“Egypt is losing everyday” El Sayad concluded.

15:45 Hundreds of artists are currently marching from the Opera House in Zamalek to Tahrir Square to protest Morsi’s declaration.

"Down with the Constitutional Declaration' and 'Down with the regime" chant protesters alongside beating drums.

The artists will remain in the square until Morsi cancels his declaration, Actors' Syndicate member Ahmed Saleh told Ahram Online’s Ati Metwali.

"After the January 25 Revolution we were supposed to be a good country, with democracy and honour. Our rulers now do not represent us," choreographer and dancer Hani Hassan told Ahram Online.

Thousands in Tahrir ahead of anti-Morsi protests
Egyptian protesters run for cover during clashes with security forces near Tahrir square, where an opposition rally has been called for to voice rejection of President Morsi's seizure of near absolute powers, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012 (Photo: AP)

15:30 Asmaa Salem, 40, a member of the Popular Current in 10th of Ramadan city tells Ahram Online journalist Zeinab El-Guindy why she came today.

“It is not my first time in Tahrir Square. I am here to stand against the Constitutional Declaration and the ‘Brotherhoodisation’ of Egypt. Either Morsi cancels the declaration or we will topple him like we did Mubarak.”

15:24 Dozens of lawyers gather at North Giza Court to demand a vote of no confidence in Lawyers' Syndicate leader Sameh Ashour.

Ashour has has been criticied by some lawyers, in particular Islamists, for opposing the president’s declaration and for backing the judiciary's partial strike.

15:23 Number of injured police officers has reached 218, including 26 who were reportedly shot with pellets, reports Egyptian state news agency MENA.

Clashes have been ongoing between protesters and security forces since 19 November leaving hundreds of protesters injured and at least one dead.

15:20 Protesters who have staged a sit-in on Tahrir Square since Friday tell Ahram Online reporter Sarah El-Rashidi that their aim is not only to force President Morsi to back tack on his declaration but to bring down the president himself.

“We need to focus on the real problem, not the side effects,” Jihan Adam, a liberal activist in her twenties, tells Ahram Online.

“We need to end Muslim Brotherhood rule for many reasons, not only Morsi’s declaration. They are not delivering any of the revolution’s demands.”

15:15 Clashes continue in Simon Bolivar Square near Tahrir between hundreds of protesters and the Central Security Forces, says Ahram Online reporter Osman El Sharnouby.

Artists gather at the Cairo Opera House to march to tahrir (Photo: Ati Metwali)

The security forces are sporadically using tear gas to disperse the protesters who, unabated, return to confront the police.

15:11 An anti-Morsi march at Al-Azhar University was attacked by Muslim Brotherhood groups in front of the administrative building, April 6 Youth Movement member Mahmoud Afifi says via Twitter.

15:04 Hundreds of protesters are marching from the liberal Wafd Party headquarters in Dokki towards Tahrir Square.

Earlier this month, the party withdrew its representatives from the constitution-drafting assembly.

15:00 Moving south, to Upper Egyptian governorate Bani Sueif, political currents and youth coalitions have organised protests in public squares in support of Tahrir protesters .

Demonstrators are holding banners reading “the Islamist project broke Somalia, divided Sudan and destroyed Afghanistan, ripped Gaza and is dividing Egypt with the Constitutional Declaration and Brotherhood’s constitution, we are warning against division."

Also they are chanting "down down with Brotherhood guide rule" and "take off your beard and you will find that underneath it is Mubarak's face."

14:55 Protesters at the entrance of Mohamed Mahmoud Street just off Tahrir Square have erected a statue of a man wearing pharaonic symbol the “key of life” as it sculpts itself from bricks - which, the artists say, represents the Egyptian people finally breaking their silence and forging their own future.

14:50 Moving to the coast, Muslim Brotherhood members are gathering at the Al-Qaed Ibrahim Mosque in Alexandria in support of the president, state news agency MENA reports.

"Today's protest is to support the president. We do not intend to clash with anyone," a local Brotherhood leader says.

14:45 The journalists’ march is gaining momentum as people join the protest on its way to Tahrir Square, pushing the numbers to over a thousand.

“Bread, freedom and social justice” and “no to prohibiting freedoms” read the demonstrators’ banners.

14:30 Back in the capital, 500 lawyers are chanting "down with the Brotherhood" and "Egypt is a state of law" as they protest against the president’s declaration in front of their syndicate building.

"[The declaration] is devastating and unprecedented. Nobody can challenge Morsi's decisions now. If he does not rescind the declaration, he will be kicked out in 18 days," Ibrahim El-Sharkawy, a lawyer, tells Ahram Online reporter Lina El-Wardani.

14:20 Moving south to Upper Egypt's Assiut 1000s of Al-Azhar students and faculty members are marching to the governorate’s headquarters in support of the president's declaration.

"The people demand the purging of the judiciary," protesters chant.

14:15 Seifeddin Maghraby, a member of Muslim Brotherhood's Guidance Bureau in Qena, Upper Egypt, says the Islamist group will not attend protests in support of President Morsi's declaration.

Brotherhood premises in the governorate are being protected against possible attacks, he added, in an interview with Al-Ahram Arabic news website.

Morsi's declaration, Maghraby says, "is to protect the nation from those who promote instability. Those who oppose Morsi do not represent the Egyptian people, they represent only themselves."

14:00 Thousands of protesters from Nile Delta governorate Menofiya arrived in 70 buses to participate in Tahrir Square’s mass protest, Al-Ahram Arabic language news website reports.

Menofiya directorate reportedly intensified security preempting attacks on public properties, headquarters of Menofiya governorate, Muslim Brotherhood premises and Freedom and Justice Party offices.

13:50  Egypt's Constitution Party and Popular Current movement have announced that they will not be protesting in the Nile Delta city of Damanhour to avoid provoking further disputes and to allow people to mourn15-year-old Islam Masoud.

Masoud, who the Brotherhood say is a member of their organisation, was killed on Sunday during clashes against the Islamist group.

The Constitution Party has also refuted any claims circulated by the Muslim Brotherhood's website that members of the party are currently protesting at Al-Saea Square, where the bloody battles took place.

Meanwhile the Popular Current have denounced any act of violence, calling for the “preservation of the peacefulness of the revolution.”

13:45 The judges General Assembly in Nile Delta city Mansoura city announce that they will also join the judicial trike called for by the Judges Club on Saturday.

The Mansoura judiciary rejected the Constitution Declaration in their statement and said they hold President Morsi responsible for any bloodshed in the streets of Egypt.

However, the head of the Judges Club in Bani Suief governorate, Upper Egypt, told Ahram Online that its members will go on with their daily work until their General Assembly decides on Saturday if it will join the nationwide judicial strike.

13:35 Journalists’ Syndicate march is on its way to Tahrir Square, from the syndicate headquarters off Ramsis Street.

Around 200 journalists chant "Down with Mubarak/Morsi" and "Egypt is a secular state.

Lawyers protesting in front of the bar association chanting #morsi wake up egypt is a state of law (Photo: Lina Wardany)

13:30 Back on Tahrir, Ahram Online journalist Zeinab El-Guindy reports numbers are increasing, with a diverse cross-section of society protesting against the declaration.

"Leave Morsi" and "Morsi you coward, you agent for the Americans" are the main chants, El-Guindy adds, while anti-Brotherhood banners are being hung over the square.

13:20 Meanwhile, lawyers are gathering outside their syndicate building in downtown Cairo in preparation for a march to Tahrir Square. Journalists are also expected to march to the square at 1:30pm.

The Constitutional Declaration has split the lawyers syndicate. Islamist members of the syndicate have called for the removal the syndicate's leader in protest at his stance against the declaration.

Journalists’ Syndicate
Journalists’ Syndicate march is on its way to Tahrir Square (Photo: Lina Wardany)

13:15 The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) is holding an urgent meeting at noon to discuss the meeting between its members and President Morsi on Monday night. After the 90-minute meeting, presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said the judges “were understanding of the reasons behind the president’s Constitutional Declaration.”

However, later on Monday night, SJC members reportedly said the declaration had taken them by surprise and the judiciary was still against the declaration.

The new general-prosecutor, Talaat Ibrahim, who was appointed by the president last week, will reportedly attend the SJC meeting in his capacity as a council member.

“We only thanked the president for meeting us [on Monday] to explain his point of view,” an SJC member told Ahram Online. “This does not mean that we approve what he did.”

An official statement is expected to be released by the SJC after the meeting.

13:00 Spokesperson of the Muslim Brotherhood Mahmoud Ghozlan announced Tuesday that protests supporting the Constitutional Declaration have only been cancelled in Cairo. Demonstrations are expected to take place scheduled earlier in various governorates, he confirmed.

"We have postponed the million-man march to avoid any bloodshed, and out of concern for the nation's security," said Ghozlan who added that whoever claims otherwise is only doing so to "cause strife among Egyptians."

The Brotherhood protest was expected to take place in front of Cairo University today but was cancelled late Monday to avoid clashes between pro and anti-Brotherhood groups.

12:50  Protesters are forming "popular commitees" (groups of volunteers) in Tahrir Square to secure the entrances, report eyewitnesses.

12:45 Meanwhile, workers at Mahalla Textile Company announce their participation in Tuesday's protests against the Constitutional Declaration. Strikes by Mahalla textile workers in 2006 and 2008 played a key role in the build-up to the January 25 Revolution, which culminated in the ouster of Egypt’s longstanding president Hosni Mubarak.

Union leader Wedad El-Demerdash told the Al-Ahram Arabic-language news website that workers were planning to begin protesting after the end of their morning shift.

"We have other motives for joining the protest [as well as the declaration], such as the refusal to have a 50 per cent quota of workers and peasants on the Constituent Assembly," added Wedad.

12:40  The director of the influential April 6 Youth Movement, Ahmed Maher, declared to the press that if things continue in Egypt as they are there will be more chaos and both the presidency and the Brotherhood must comprehend the urgency of the current situation.

Maher proposed that President Morsi retract the recent Constitutional Decree, but keep the decisions to re-try remnants of the old regime and to replace the prosecutor-general. He also suggested that the Supreme Judiciary Council appoint the new prosecutor-general and not the president. 

12:35  Moving North, judges in the Nile Delta governorate of Gharbiya have continued their strike for a second day in protest at President Morsi’s Constitutional Declaration. They say they will continue their strike until the declaration is rescinded as agreed by the general council of judges in Tanta.

This follows crisis talks between the Supreme Judicial Council and the president late Monday night, after which Morsi declared a "compromise" had been brokered, although this was later refuted by judges speaking to the media saying that they did not reach an agreement.

12:30  Good morning, we open our coverage of mass protests expected against President Morsi's recent "power grab." Starting on Cairo's Tahrir Square, continuing clashes  between protesters and police enter their eighth day. Ahmed Naguib, 18, was announced dead on Monday night after being shot by poilce on Sunday - this follows Monday's funeral  for "Jika" or Gaber Salah, 19, who was gunned down earlier in the week just off Tahrir.

Rival protests are expected across Egypt on Tuesday both against President Mohamed Morsi's controversial Constitutional Declaration awarding him sweeping powers and in support of the president's decisions, as clashes on Tahrir Square enter their eighth day.

President Morsi announced late Monday night, following crisis talks with the Supreme Judicial Council that a compromise has been reached but that he would not back down.

Despite Muslim brotherhood cancelling their rally in support of the president's recent declaration to "prevent bloodshed", Brotherhood, Salafist Calling and Gamaa Al-Islamaya announce mass demonstration in Alexandria.

Meanwhile, opposition parties and groups have called for 'million-man' marches and are currently staging an open-ended sit-in on Their Square since Friday, in protest at President Mohamed Morsi's Thursday declaration which "gives the president Pharaoh-like powers,” according to protesters.

Political parties and movements opposed to the declaration held a press conference on Monday at the headquarters of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party in Downtown Cairo to publicise plans for Tuesday's rallies and protests.

"The statement issued by the presidency last night was not acceptable. It did not present anything new concerning the clear demand by national and revolutionary political powers to cancel the constitutional declaration," read the groups' statement.

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