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Riot police had earlier mustered around the palace as activists chanted “leave, leave” and held up Egyptian flags with “no to the constitution” written on them. Other protesters assembled in front of two mosques north of Cairo before marching towards the palace.
“Many of our national leaders and youth will join us in our marches today,” said Hussein Abdel Ghany, a spokesman for the opposition coalition. “Our marches are against tyranny and the void constitutional decree and we won’t retract our position until our demands are met.”
Hundreds of black-clad riot police deployed around the Itihadiya palace in Cairo’s district of Heliopolis. Barbed wire was also placed outside the complex, and side roads leading to it were blocked to traffic. Protesters gathered at Cairo’s Tahrir square and several other points not far from the palace to march to the presidential complex.
“Freedom or we die,” chanted a crowd of several hundred outside a mosque in the Abbasiyah district. “Mohammed Morsi! Illegitimate! Brotherhood! Illegitimate!” they also yelled, alluding to the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood from which Morsi hails.
“This is the last warning before we lay siege on the presidential palace,” said Mahmoud Hashim, a 21-year-old student from the city of Suez on the Red Sea. “We want the presidential decrees cancelled.”
Several hundred protesters also gathered outside Morsi’s home in an upscale suburb not far from the Itihadiya. “Down with the sons of dogs. We are the power and we are the people” They chanted.
Morsi, who narrowly won the presidency in a June election, appeared to be in no mood for compromise.
Recent protests against the Morsi edicts have drawn at least 200,000 protesters.
Also today, at least eight influential dailies, a mix of opposition party mouthpieces and independent publications, suspended publication for a day to protest against what many journalists see as the restrictions on freedom of expression in the draft constitution.
The country’s privately owned TV networks plan to go dark in protest all day Wednesday.
The Draft constitution will be “voted upon” on 12/15. It is similar to that of Iran as it doesn’t protect the rights of women and minority groups, restricts freedom of expression and most disturbing it empowers Islamic religious clerics by giving them a say over legislation. (My friend Barry Rubin has a full analysis of the proposed constitution here).
UPDATE: Morsi Takes Cover
Egyptian police battled thousands of protesters outside President Mohamed Mursi’s palace in Cairo on Tuesday, prompting the Islamist leader to leave the building, two presidential sources said.
Police fired teargas at demonstrators angered by Mursi’s drive to hold a referendum on a new constitution on December 15. Some broke through police lines around his palace and protested next to the perimeter wall.
Several thousand people had gathered nearby in what they dubbed “last warning” protests against Mursi, who infuriated opponents with a November 22 decree that expanded his powers. “The people want the downfall of the regime,” the crowd chanted.
“The president left the palace,” a presidential source, who declined to be named, told Reuters. A security source at the presidency also said the president had left the building.