Thousands of people converged on Tahrir Square in Cairo Sunday to demand the resignation of President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, on the one-year anniversary of his ascent to power.
Demonstrators waved red cards and chanted “irhal” (“leave”), promising to camp in the square until Morsi resigns, Al Jazeera reported. Some wore black headbands with “Leave, Morsi!” written on them. Anti-Morsi demonstrations were also expected in provincial cities, reported Al Arabiya.
Meanwhile, Morsi’s supporters also held a gathering, at the Raba El-Adwyia Mosque square in Nasr City, a suburb of Cairo.
The anti-Morsi protests have been organized by a grassroots campaign that calls itself Tamarod, meaning “rebellion” or “insubordination”. It claims to have collected the signatures of 22 million Egyptians on a petition demanding Morsi’s resignation.
Poverty is increasing, the protesters say, and inflation is not going away. The Egyptian pound has dropped in value by nearly 20 percent since morsi took office, foreign investment has been decimated, and businesses are hard hit by fuel and electricity shortages.
Morsi’s November decree which shielded his decisions from judicial review has also made him less popular.
There is concern that the protests on Sunday could descend into violence. Egyptians have been stocking up on food and filling up their cars with gasoline in anticipation of unrest.
Four Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been killed in attacks on the group’s offices in recent days, and two people were killed in fighting in Alexandria on Friday, including a U.S. citizen.
Tanks and other military vehicles have started to appear on the streets of Cairo. Police and troops have deployed to protect key buildings around the country, security officials said. The health ministry said hospitals have been placed on high alert.
Marchers were scheduled to set for the Ittihadiya presidential palace, close to the neighborhood where thousands of Morsi supporters were to hold their counter-demonstration.