Crowds gather across Egypt for massive protests

Massive crowds of protesters began gathering in city squares across Egypt on Sunday - exactly one year since Islamist Mohammad Morsi became Egypt's first freely elected leader.

Protesters seeking to oust Morsi say that is long enough, blaming him and his Muslim Brotherhood for Egypt's economic malaise and accusing them of trying to impose strict religious values on a diverse country.

They now hope mass demonstrations will topple him just as they swept out Mubarak over two years ago.

Waving Egyptian flags, crowds of anti-Morsi protesters descended on Tahrir Square in the heart of Cairo chanting "erhal!" or "leave!"

"We will defend the revolution, we will defend legitimacy," a banner with a picture of Morsi reads above a stage set up at the rally of a few thousand outside a mosque.

But across the city, thousands of Morsi's supporters gathered in a show of support for the embattled leader. Many have staged a sit-in since Friday in front of the Rabia al-Adawiya Mosque near presidential palace.

Anti-Morsi protesters are planning to march to the palace sparking fears of possible violence.

Some Morsi supporters wore homemade body armor as protection.

Seven people have already been killed in the protests, including an American student, and hundreds injured.

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In Tahrir Square, 32-year-old accountant Abdelhamid Nada told Reuters that the protests would only get violent if Brotherhood supporters provoked it.

"If they are foolish enough, they will do it, and if they do it, we will win," he said.

In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, Morsi remained defiant against the calls for him to step down and said that his resignation would affect any future Egyptian leader.

"If we changed someone in office who [was elected] according to constitutional legitimacy – well, there will be people opposing the new president too, and a week or a month later they will ask him to step down," Morsi said.

"There is no room for any talk against this constitutional legitimacy. There can be demonstrations and people expressing their opinions. But what's critical in all this is the adoption and application of the constitution. This is the critical point."

Reuters contributed to this report.