CAIRO -- Tens of thousands of protesters swept across villages and cities Sunday, denouncing Egypt's embattled Islamist president and raising fears that the days ahead will be marked with factional hate and bloodshed in what activists are calling a new revolution.
Protesters against President Mohamed Morsi filled streets and squares on the one-year anniversary of his inauguration. Chants to bring him down echoed against distant cheers of support from Islamists who held rival rallies in what has become an increasingly polarized nation.
A new youth movement, known as Rebel, has collected more than 22 million signatures on petitions calling for Morsi to step aside for early elections. The president and his Muslim Brotherhood party have refused to budge and the military has dispatched troops around government buildings and the Suez Canal.
Newspaper headlines read: "The Longest Day" and "Egypt Under the Volcano."
The country's immediate future appeared to hinge on two questions: Can Morsi survive massive, sustained protests? And, if widespread violence ignites, will the military take control of the government?
"We all feel we're walking on a dead-end road and that the country will collapse," said Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and an opposition leader. "All Egypt must go out (Sunday) to say we want to return to the ballot box and build the foundations of the house we will all live in."
The demonstrations early Sunday were largely peaceful. Thousands of anti-Morsi protesters waved flags and chanted "Leave, leave" in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicenter of rebellion, where more than two years ago a popular uprising brought down Hosni Mubarak. Across town, at a mosque near the presidential palace, thousands of Morsi loyalists prayed and were roused by speeches from clerics.
Security officials fear the two sides may collide. At least five people have been killed in recent days. Much of the violence erupted when anti-Morsi forces attacked Muslim Brotherhood offices in Alexandria and other cities. In what has been regarded as a snub to Morsi, the police, who have long been suspicious of Islamists, have refused to protect Brotherhood headquarters.
Those opposed to the president blame him for accumulating power to advance the Brotherhood's Islamist agenda at the expense of a faltering economy, broken institutions and widespread social problems. Morsi accuses anarchists and remnants of Mubarak's regime of instigating unrest to sabotage his government.
The stand-off has enraged nearly half the electorate who voted against Morsi and has spoiled what many hoped would be a new democracy to move beyond the corruption of the Mubarak years. Despair radiates across economic classes and has cleaved the country into two dangerous factions, each fighting for its vision of Egypt following the upheaval of the Arab Spring.
The likelihood of violence is expected to intensify as anti-government protesters march on the presidential palace, which over the last year has been the scene of clashes between demonstrators and Brotherhood loyalists.