CAIRO — Opponents of President Mohamed Mursi rallied in Cairo’s Tahrir Square for a fifth day today, stepping up calls to scrap a decree they say threatens Egypt with a new era of autocracy.
The protest called by leftist, liberal and socialist groups marks an escalation of the worst crisis since the Muslim Brotherhood politician was elected in June and exposes the deep divide between newly empowered Islamists and their opponents.
The crowd is expected to grow in the late afternoon but hundreds were already in the square after many camped overnight. Police fired tear gas and organizers urged demonstrators not to clash with Interior Ministry security forces.
One person – a Muslim Brotherhood activist – has been killed and hundreds more injured in violence set off by a move that has also triggered a rebellion by judges and battered confidence in an economy struggling to recover from two years of turmoil.
Mursi’s opponents have accused him of behaving like a modern-day pharaoh. The United States, a big benefactor to Egypt’s military, has voiced its concerns, worried by more turbulence in a country that has a peace treaty with Israel.
The protest will test the extent to which Egypt’s non-Islamist opposition can rally support. The Islamists have consistently beaten more secular parties at the ballot box in elections held since Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February, 2011.
“We don’t want a dictatorship again. The Mubarak regime was a dictatorship. We had a revolution to have justice and freedom,” said Ahmed Husseini, 32, who was speaking early on Tuesday in Tahrir Square.
Activists have been camped out in Tahrir Square, scene of the historic uprising against Mubarak, since Friday, blocking it to traffic and clashing intermittently with riot police in nearby streets. (Reuters)