Dozens of Egyptians protested against President Mohammed Mursi in Cairo on Friday, seeking to challenge the Islamist president and his Muslim Brotherhood group on the street less than two months into his rule with a first test of his popularity.
Activists behind Friday’s call to protest accuse Mursi of seeking to monopolize power after he wrested back prerogatives in August that the military council, which had ruled Egypt for a year and a half, had sought to retain for itself.
“Wake up Egyptian people. Don't fall for the Brotherhood,” said Mahmoud, in his 50s, addressing about 200 people in Tahrir Square, the heart of Cairo where protests brought down President Hosni Mubarak in February last year.
With the intense summer heat, protests tend to gather pace later in the day.
“Egypt is for all Egyptians, not only one group,” said Mahmoud, who only gave his first name, as he stood on a motorbike in the square where traffic was flowing through.
The protest organizers, among them opposition politician Mohamed Abou Hamed, also want a probe into the funding of the Brotherhood, repressed by Mubarak during his 30-year rule but which has dominated the political scene since he was toppled.
In a morning headline ahead of the protests that had been trailed for a few weeks, the independent daily Al Masry Al Youm called the demonstration “the first test for Mursi.”
But several liberal groups that are usually critical of the Brotherhood have not backed the protest. Among those staying away is April 6 youth movement, which had helped galvanize the street against Mubarak in 2011.
The protest organizers, who had named several gathering points, had said they planned to march towards the presidential palace to demand the resignation of Mursi, who was sworn in on June 30, becoming Egypt’s first president who was not drawn from the top ranks of the military.
Security officials said it would protect peaceful protests but would act firmly against any lawbreakers after reports in the press and speculation on social media suggested protesters could target premises of the Brotherhood and its political party.
The Facebook page calling for the protest said it would be “peaceful” and those involved would not resort to violence.
Mursi, propelled to the presidency by the well-organized Brotherhood, has formally resigned from the group saying he wanted to represent the whole nation in office.