Protesters leave Egypt's presidential palace as tension remains palpable

Ahram Online, Thursday 6 Dec 2012

Area near presidential palace is emptied of protesters after presidential guard imposes curfew; Opposition plans three more marches Thursday evening towards Cairo's new flashpoint protest venue

Presidential palace area
An Egyptian Army soldier lays barbed wire near the presidential palace to secure the site of overnight clashes between supporters and opponents of President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 (Photo: AP)

Supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi withdrew from areas around the presidential palace in Cairo on Thursday after Egypt's presidential guard ordered protesters to leave the area by 3pm Cairo local time following violent clashes on Wednesday.

Opposition protesters, who have been demonstrating against President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood for the last week, had left the scene earlier, but are expected to return to the area later today.

Anti-Morsi protesters – including members of the Dostour Party, the revolutionary Maspero Youth Union and the Popular Alliance Party – are planning to head towards the presidential palace in three marches.

One will set out from Cairo's Abbasiya cathedral, a second from Al-Nour Mosque in Abbasiya, and a third from Raba Al-Adawia Mosque located in the capital's Nasr City district.

It is not clear, however, when the three marches will arrive. Their final destination is not clear as well, but they are expected to settle near the presidential palace.

Bloody clashes that saw at least six people killed and 600 injured broke out on Wednesday after Morsi supporters forcibly dispersed a sit-in staged by anti-Morsi protesters since Tuesday.

Protesters have been calling for the annulment of the president's recent constitutional declaration and a draft constitution that will be put before a popular referendum next week.

Opposition demonstrators believe the constitutional declaration has given Morsi unfettered powers and put him beyond any legal accountability. They also argue that the draft constitution, written by Egypt's Islamist-led Constituent Assembly, would "Islamise" the country and have an adverse effect on civil freedoms.

Clashes on Thursday lasted for hours between opposition protesters and Morsi supporters, the latter of whom argue that the president – via his constitutional declaration – is seeking to realise a longstanding revolutionary demand by bringing former regime figures to justice. They also support the draft constitution and want to see it passed.

The presidential guard has yet to announce when the newly imposed curfew will be lifted.

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