Cairo: Thousands took to the streets across Egypt on Tuesday to protest a decision by President Mohammad Morsi to grant himself sweeping powers.
Protesters in Cairo converged on Tahrir Square where a sit-in began on Friday after the Islamist leader signed a decree making all his decisions and laws immune from legal challenge.
He also barred courts from dissolving the constituent assembly, which is drafting the country’s new constitution, as well as the Islamist-dominated upper house of parliament.
Protesters shouted ‘People want the fall of the regime’ and ‘Leave,’ chants reminiscent of the uprising that forced Hosni Mubarak to step down almost two years ago.
Hundreds of lawyers and journalists led marches chanting “Leave, leave Mursi.”
The Muslim Brotherhood cancelled a counter-rally in Cairo to avert violence, said Ahmad Sobea, media adviser for the Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party.
“The blood of Egyptians is invaluable to us, be they supporters or opponents of the president’s decrees,” he said by phone, adding that other rallies will be held elsewhere in the country. “Some people are trying to use the president’s decrees to create a political crisis.”
Two people have died and hundreds of others have been injured since clashes erupted Friday over Mursi’s decision, which has been described by opposition groups as a power grab.
Earlier on Tuesday, police forces used tear gas against protesters at the US embassy near Tahrir Square, which has closed its visa and services offices citing security concerns. “We will stay in Tahrir until Mursi cancels his declaration,” protester Ahmad Fahmi was quoted as saying.
The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups postponed a pro-Mursi protest in a bid to prevent further violence.
There were also anti-Mursi protests in the southern cities of Beni Suef and Assiut, where rival protesters clashed near Assiut’s university, local media reported.
Hundreds rallied in the port city of Suez, carrying banners reading: ‘Egypt is for Egyptians, not for Brotherhood or Salafists.’
Mursi, who headed the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party before becoming Egypt’s first elected president, met the country’s top judges on Monday and told them that his decisions are “temporary” and aimed at protecting the revolution.”
Opposition groups and judges have rejected his statement.
Around the capital, streets were quiet on Tuesday, with several schools closed for the day despite an education ministry statement saying that schools and universities would run as normal.
A new clinic was set up in the middle of the square, which was closed to traffic, while dozens of ambulances were parked nearby.