The New Left youth movements led a powerful charge against Thursday’s presidential decree by Muhammad Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood’s civil wing, the Freedom and Justice Party. Protests were held at some scale in 8 governorates.
The Egyptian religious Right (the Muslim Brotherhood) and the secular liberals and leftists had been allies in overthrowing Hosni Mubark in Jan.-Feb. 2011. That alliance frayed once the Brotherhood won the presidency last June, but the rhetoric of unity had continued. Morsi’s high-handed executive orders on Thursday has decisively split the religious and secular wings of the revolution, who now confront one another. Asma Mahfouz of April 6 tweeted that Morsi was taking the country to civil war. Even some figures on the religious right, such as Wael Ghoneim (formerly the head of Google in Egypt), broke with the Brotherhood over these decrees. Ghoneim was quoted as saying that “The revolution was not made in search of another dictator.”
Freedom and Justice Party headquarters were attacked in two locations in Alexandria and one in Port Said, at least. In Port Said, leftists clashed with Muslim Brothers and snipers in plainclothes took pot shots at them. Leftists protesting Morsi maintain that they were assaulted by Muslim Brotherhood mobs, which led to the attacks on FJP HQs. In Suez, hundreds of protesters attacked the offices of the Muslim Brotherhood in that canal city. FJP offices in Asyut and in the provinces of Daqahliya and Gharbiya were surrounded by demonstrators. In Alexandria, the head of the Kefaya! movement was wounded in a clash. Some demonstrators were assaulted by government security forces, others by Muslim Brotherhood enforcers.
In Damietta, Aswan, Mansoura and Tanta, protesters clashed with Muslim Brothers outside their party HQs.
Thousands of protesters descended on Tahrir Square in the center of Cairo, some setting up tents. Security was provided for them by the Ultras or soccer militants, though they were subjected to teargas barrages and police tried to cut off access streets. Some 30 liberal and leftist parties and groups supported the demonstrations, including the Wafd Party, the Party of the Liberated, the Popular Current, and smaller organizations such as Kefaya! (Enough!) and April 6. Establishment groups such as the Attorneys’ Guild also protested (Morsi’s decree detracted from the power of the courts).
As night fell in downtown Cairo, some 26 groups, such as the Leftist People’s Current of former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, announced that they intended to camp out in the square. Others left, but pledged to come back for a big demonstration on Tuesday.
Street marches were staged, heading to Tahrir square, from Shubra, the dense slum that is disproportionately Christian, from the popular Sayyida Zaynab quarter, from al-Abbasiya’s mosque (near Ain Shams University and also a mixed Muslim-Christian area), and from a mosque in Giza.
Morsi responded to the protests by reaffirming his plans to arrogate the new powers to himself.