June 30, 2013

Egyptian protesters demand Morsi's ouster

Fears grow that backers of President Morsi could be on a collision course with the demonstrators.

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Egyptians gather in Tahrir Square in Cairo in a demonstration against President Mohammed Morsi on Sunday. Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians poured onto the streets in Cairo and across Egypt, launching an all-out push to force Morsi from office on the one-year anniversary of his inauguration.

The Associated Press

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Egyptian protesters hold a banner in Tahrir Square during a demonstration against Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo on Sunday.

The Associated Press

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Southern Egypt saw deadly attacks on anti-Morsi protests. A protester was shot to death in Beni Suef outside the offices of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party. Gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire on a protest, killing one person and wounding four others in the city of Assiut.

The enraged protesters then marched on the nearby local Freedom and Justice offices, where gunmen inside opened fire, killing two more, security officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to talk to the press. Clashes erupted with protesters and security forces fighting side by side against Morsi's supporters.

At least 400 people were injured nationwide, the Health Ministry said.

Morsi, who has three years left in his term, said street protests cannot be used to overturn the results of a free election.

"There is no room for any talk against this constitutional legitimacy," he told Britain's The Guardian newspaper in an interview published Sunday, rejecting early elections.

If an elected president is forced out, "there will (be) people or opponents opposing the new president too, and a week or a month later, they will ask him to step down," he said.

Morsi was not at Ittihadiya as Sunday's rally took place – he has moved to another nearby palace.

As the crowds massed, Morsi's spokesman Ihab Fahmi repeated the president's longstanding offer of dialogue with the opposition to resolve the nation's political crisis, calling it "the only framework through which we can reach understandings."

The opposition has repeatedly turned down his offers for dialogue, arguing that they were for show.

Near Ittihadiya palace, thousands of Islamists gathered in a show of support for Morsi outside the Rabia al-Adawiya Mosque. Some Morsi backers wore homemade body armor and construction helmets and carried shields and clubs – precautions, they said, against possible violence.

The demonstrations are the culmination of polarization and instability that have been building since Morsi's June 30, 2012 inauguration. The past year has seen multiple political crises, bouts of bloody clashes and a steadily worsening economy, with power outages, fuel shortages, rising prices and persistent lawlessness and crime.

In one camp are the president and his Islamist allies, including the Muslim Brotherhood and more hard-line groups. Morsi supporters accuse Mubarak loyalists of being behind the protests, aiming to overturn last year's election results, just as they argue that remnants of the old regime have sabotaged Morsi's attempts to deal with the nation's woes and bring reforms.

Hard-liners among them have also given the confrontation a sharply religious tone, denouncing Morsi's opponents as "enemies of God" and infidels.

On the other side is an array of secular and liberal Egyptians, moderate Muslims, Christians – and what the opposition says is a broad sector of the general public that has turned against the Islamists. They say the Islamists have negated their election mandate by trying to monopolize power, infusing government with their supporters, forcing through a constitution they largely wrote and giving religious extremists a free hand, all while failing to manage the country.

"The country is only going backward. He's embarrassing us and making people hate Islam," said Donia Rashad, a 24-year-old unemployed woman who wears the conservative Islamic headscarf. "We need someone who can feel the people and is agreeable to the majority," she added.

On the way to Ittihadiya, some chanted, "You lied to us in the name of religion," and others raised a banner proclaiming, "Morsi=Mubarak. Early presidential elections." The crowds, including women, children and elderly people, hoisted long banners in the colors of the Egyptian flag and raised red cards – a sign of expulsion in soccer.

(Continued on page 3)

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