CAIRO – Riot police fired tear gas as Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi reportedly left his palace during a massive rally by opposition movements against his expanded powers and a much-criticized proposed constitution.
Protesters shoved aside a barbed-wire barricade and minor skirmishes with police were reported.
But overall the demonstration was relatively peaceful. Police and activists – normally adversaries -- gathered and talked around security vans as night fell. The protest, dubbed The Final Warning, was a series of marches from across Cairo that converged on the presidential palace.
“If the people approve of Morsi’s actions, then they are signing on to be slaves,” said Nabil Zaki, an opposition figure outside the palace walls. “We won’t negotiate with him anymore. We will hit the streets. Expect a united opposition, expect nationwide strikes, and a working class that will also hit the streets to say ‘No’ to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.”
The march on the palace was an attempt by protesters to increase pressure on Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi angered much of the country last month when he expanded his powers and hurried an Islamist-led constitutional assembly to draft a constitution even as the nation’s highest court was expected to dissolve the body.
The proposed charter will go to a national referendum on Dec. 15, despite complaints by liberals and secularists that the document is tilted toward Islamic law and does not protect civil rights and freedom of expression. The charter has widened the nation’s political divide and has led activists to call Morsi a pharaoh and a dictator, the same slurs they used against deposed autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
“We are under the rule of the brotherhood, not Morsi. Each and every promise he made has been broken. He has done the opposite of everything he vowed to fulfill as president,” said May Kamel, a businesswoman waving Egyptian flags. “There will be blood but we are willing to face this. The brotherhood won’t give this up that easy; they’ve wanted this for 80 years."