Egypt sees pro-, anti-Morsi protests in wake of presidential power grab


Thousands of supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi celebrate in front of the Egyptian high court in Cairo on November 22, 2012, after Morsi assumed sweeping powers, putting him on a collision course with the judiciary and raising questions about the country's democratic future. The move, just a day after Morsi took diplomatic centre stage in brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza's Islamist Hamas rulers, earnt him the same derisive monicker of 'new phararoh' levelled at veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak before his ouster in a popular uprising last year.


Gianluigi Guercia

Competing protests are being held Cairo today in response to President Mohammed Morsi's radical Thursday decree granting him an array of new powers, according to the Associated Press

Pro- and anti-Morsi factions are organizing rallies in response to the president's move consolidating power even as he strengthens his hand abroad, having played a leading role in arranging a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas militants earlier this week. 

Morsi appeared before his supporters outside the presidential palace, the BBC reported, where he told the crowds that he was "for all Egyptians."

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Muslim Brotherhood offices were set aflame in Port Said and Ismailia, the BBC said.

CNN reported protestors sacking the Muslim Brotherhood's headquarters in Alexandria. 

In Cairo, the security forces responded by firing tear gas at protesters in Tahrir Square, witnesses told the Guardian.

Morsi's Thursday decree largely exempts him from judicial power and insulates the country's young leader from the demands of the constituent assembly, an influential body tasked with writing a new constitution, said AP.

The move sparked outcry among rights groups and the opposition, who denounced it as a grab for power.

Yet Morsi insisted today that he wanted to lead Egypt on the path to "freedom and democracy," according to the BBC, saying that he wanted to see a "genuine opposition, a strong opposition."

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The European Union has urged Egypt to respect the democratic process, Reuters reported, while a spokesman for United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay said the organization was "very concerned" about the impact on the rule of law and human rights.

Political heavyweight Mohamed El Baradei organized one of the anti-Morsi protests in Cairo today, said AP, while Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood party is holding a competing rally in front of the presidential palace. 

Anti-Morsi protesters shouted slogans like, "the people want the regime down,” similar in tone to anti-Mubarak anger seen on the streets before his overthrow last year, said Bloomberg. They also held signs that said, "Morsi is the new Pharaoh," sentiment echoed by El Baradei in a Thursday tweet: 

Anti-Morsi demonstrators demand the dissolution of cabinet and seek major reforms of the police force, according to Bloomberg