Today Morsi supporters and Anti-Morsi protesters gathered throughout various cities in Egypt for massive demonstrations. The Pro-Morsi group – mainly consisting of Islamists from numerous parties – gathered to support the constitution and the President, while the Anti-Morsi supporters gathered to take part in what they dubbed as the ‘Tuesday of Departure’.
Morsi’s supporters gathered early in Cairo’s Rabaa Al Adaweya – a square in Nasr City (Cairo). At around 3p.m. hundreds had already arrived, and some roads were blocked by the demonstrators.
According to eye-witness reports on Twitter and other social media, the supporters arrived in big tour buses and micro-buses – implying that this was a well organized protest that possibly included demonstrators who were paid to be there. Personally, I witnessed a few micro-buses travelling to the scene filled with people waving Morsi’s pictures.
At around 5p.m. I headed off to the Presidential Palace – a few kilometers away from where the Pro-Morsi supporters were gathered. The scene was completely different. At Rabaa Al Adaweya there were no security forces. At the Presidential Palace, hundreds of security officers – both from the military and from the Interior Ministry – lined up against the walls of the Presidential Palace.
Yet, despite the presence of hundreds of military and central security officers, the atmosphere remained calm – and was never threatening. Like previous protests, Anti-Morsi protesters were commonly seen discussing the political environment with the officers. Some officers stated that they had been standing guard since 4a.m. and that they were going to be there all night. They once again stressed that they are there to protect us and not to intimidate us. The people seemed to agree as not a single insult or object was hurled at the officers.
Although when I arrived protesters had been protesting directly in front of the palace, that was not the case throughout the day. Moreover, protesters were only allowed to demonstrate in front of one section of the Palace while others remained sealed off with 3-meter high stone walls.
Many of the stone walls surrounding the location where the demonstrations took place had been partially taken down. Protesters were also actively working to completely remove them – however that proved quite difficult.
As with the previous protests, there was a huge presence of women at tonight’s demonstration. However, I noticed very few children present – possibly due to the risk of violence considering the Pro-Morsi supporters were relatively close. The women chanted against the constitution and Morsi, and they called for better equality for women in Egypt.
Unlike previous protests, tonight the atmosphere was slightly more tense, but remained festive and peaceful. This reflected in the people’s chants against Morsi, which included “Morsi, you spare tire, we’ll take you back to jail!” and “The People will remove the Supreme Guide (as opposed to the normally chanted: the people want the removal of the Supreme Guide).” A lot of profanity and insults were used during the songs and chants as well.
Tonight, Anti-Morsi Egyptians – in the tens of thousands (if not more) – proved that they are not a minority that should simply be ignored. I saw old men and women who could barely walk with their walking sticks attend the protests to call for the cancellation of the constitutional referendum. I saw young teen age girls run around screaming in English and French against Morsi.
However, as the Constitutional Referendum date nears (it is on Saturday the 15th of December), those protesting must make plans to go and vote ‘No’ during the referendum in the case that Morsi does not back down. A boycott of the vote will simply lead to the constitution passing as Morsi will be able to rally Islamists to vote ‘Yes’.
Although voting – and not boycotting – to some extent legitimizes what is illegitimate (in the sense that by voting, you are recognizing Morsi’s dictatorial decrees and the Constitutional Assembly that made this unrepresentative and illegitimate constitution), it is necessary in order to ensure that the voice of the majority and the non-Islamists is heard. If the hundreds of thousands (and in some cases millions) that have protested in the past few weeks go and vote ‘No’, then they will be able to defeat Morsi and his Islamist-allies at the polls and in the game he wants to play.