Rival demonstrations took place on Tuesday evening at the presidential palace in Heliopolis and two mosques in the bordering Nasr City.
Marches from different neighbourhoods in Cairo converged on the palace, where protesters expressed their disapproval of the constitutional referendum, scheduled to be held on Saturday. Various movements, whose tents were torn down in clashes last week, erected new tents around the palace leading into Tuesday as demonstrators daubed new graffiti on the palace walls which had been painted over last week.
Smaller processions approached the palace ahead of the major marches and people chanted, “down with the rule of the Supreme Guide,” and “leave,” a chant directed at President Mohamed Morsy in recent protests.
Those demonstrating at the palace strongly oppose the proposed constitution and the assembly that wrote it, claiming that Islamist factions had disproportionate input in the final draft.
Concrete walls and barricades of barbed wire blocked streets surrounding the palace ahead of Tuesday’s demonstrations. However protesters breached a barricade without resistance from security forces. Once inside, the demonstrators toppled the concrete blocks, allowing for freer movement around the palace. The Muslim Brotherhood condemned the removal of barricades on its Twitter account, calling it an “attack on a democratically elected institution.”
Both the Republican Guard and Central Security Forces provided strong presence at the palace, but did so without any direct clashes or confrontations going into Tuesday night.
Thousands of supporters of President Morsy assembled at Rabaa Al-Adawiya and Al-Rashdan Mosques in Nasr City, carrying banners supporting the president and the proposed constitution. Demonstrators at the rallies chanted, “the people support the decision of the president,” as they held signs that read, “yes to the constitution.”
The two demonstrations, called for by the Muslim Brotherhood and a wide range of Salafi groups were dubbed “yes to legitimacy” and were set to meet in a location “to be confirmed” later on Tuesday night.
Safwat Hegazy led chants from a stage at Rabaa Al-Adawiya saying, “constitution, freedom, Islamic Shari’a.”
Muslim Brotherhood Spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan told state-owned Al-Ahram on Tuesday that the group did not intend to stage a sit-in and would leave the premises of the mosques at roughly 10 pm. He also said members of his group would not move to the Presidential Palace.
The political escalation surrounding the Constituent Assembly and the draft constitution reached a climax last Wednesday when the Muslim Brotherhood approached the presidential palace, where opposition groups were staging a sit-in. Supporters of the president tore down tents of the opposition and the two sides engaged in sustained clashes going into Wednesday evening that left seven dead and hundreds injured.
The National Salvation Front (NSF) said it would wait until the wake of Tuesday’s demonstrations to determine whether it would support a boycott of the referendum or urge Egyptians to go to the polls and vote “no.”