Egypt protests continue as opposition rejects dialogue with Morsi (VIDEO)


Egyptian protesters gather in Cairo’s landmark Tahrir square during the Friday noon prayer on December 07, 2012, ahead of a demonstration against Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Egypt's mainly secular opposition rejected an offer of dialogue from Islamist President Morsi raising the prospect of further escalation of a crisis that already turned bloody earlier this week.



CAIRO, Egypt — Thousands of protesters converged on Tahrir Square in Egypt on Friday, as opposition leaders rejected President Mohamed Morsi's call to dialogue.

As many as 10,000 protesters who were held behind a barrier broke through the barricades on Friday evening, Al Jazeera reported. They climbed onto army tanks and waved flags, while chanting slogans against Morsi.

"Leave, leave like Mubarak!" they chanted, according to The Los Angeles Times.

On Friday evening, Vice President Mahmud Mekki said Morsi could postpone the Dec. 15 vote if the opposition "guaranteed it would not challenge the move on the grounds that referendums legally had to be held two weeks after being formally presented to the president," the BBC reported.

Earlier in the day, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood held funerals for two of the six Brotherhood members who were killed in clashes earlier this week, according to Reuters.

Egyptian newspaper Ahram Online reported that several thousand protesters were demonstrating in Tahrir Square, while demonstrators were also marching to the presidential palace, which "has been the most prominent venue of today's mass protests."

GlobalPost's Erin Cunningham reported from Cairo, "The atmosphere was very festive, and the protestors were impassioned but not angry or vengeful. There were already plans to protest today, but I do believe that Morsi made things worse by giving a statement that painted the protests as a conspiracy to bring down the state and drag Egypt into chaos."

Late on Thursday, Morsi had addressed the nation, calling for dialogue to reconcile differences, while refusing to rescind the Nov. 22 decree that gave him extraordinary powers and pushing ahead with the referendum on the constitution on Dec. 15.

More on GlobalPost: Opposition rejects Morsi's call for dialogue as protests continue

Morsi blamed the violent clashes on Wednesday night between his supporters and the demonstrators on "infiltrators" inside the opposition who were paid to perpetuate "thuggery" and "terrorism," according to The Washington Post.

The Post said that anti-Morsi protesters ransacked the Cairo headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood after the speech.

GlobalPost's correspondent Cunningham noted that there were also protests across the country on Friday, including clashes, in the provinces of Beheira, Sharqeya, and Assiut. She added, "There have only been a couple of times since the revolution when protests of this nature - that are not formally planned to mark an anniversary or holiday – have taken place simultaneously in various places across the country. And it gives us an idea of the scope of the discontent."

Analysts say the protests have created a deep and bitter divide between Morsi's supporters and the opposition, "cementing a dangerous ideological divide that is likely to outlive the current crisis," according to the Post.

Activists said they planned to demonstrate outside Morsi's planned "national dialogue" conference. Cunningham said, "So far, all leading opposition movements have rejected the meeting with Morsi before he rescinds his decree. That includes the National Salvation Front, a coordinated movement between Mohamed ElBaradei, Amr Moussa, and Hamdeen Sabbahi; the party of former Egyptian presidential candidate, Abdel Meneim Aboul Fotouh, 'Strong Egypt'; and the liberal Wafd party."

The Muslim Brotherhood's Twitter account claimed that at least 7 political parties would meet at the presidential palace on Saturday for the national dialogue, but did not specify which groups, when asked.

Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed alarm at the current "disastrous situation" in Egypt, saying the flaws in the government's draft constitution had led to the heightened tensions, according to The New York Times.

Pillay said the constitution, which will be put to a referendum next week, has "very worrying omissions and ambiguities."

Here is a video of the protests, via the Associated Press:

More on GlobalPost: Things are getting weird in Egypt

GlobalPost's Erin Cunningham is in Cairo, following the protests. Here are some of her tweets:

[View the story "Erin Cunningham reporting on Egypt protests" on Storify]

GlobalPost's Erin Cunningham contributed reporting to this story.