Protests are already underway in cities and towns across Egypt Friday as opponents of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi gear up for mass demonstrations Sunday in what many hope will be a 'second revolution' of millions.
Yet, Morsi's supporters, many of them members of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as Egypt's powerful army and security forces, are also taking to the streets in what some fear will be a violent attempt to stem the uprising.
The grassroots Tamarod, or "rebel," movement has breathed new life into Egypt's ongoing protests against Morsi by collecting over 15 million signatures on a petition demanding a vote of no confidence in Morsi's rule, and by mobilizing for what are expected to be massive protests Sunday marking the one year anniversary of the ruler's inauguration
In a march winding through Cairo, demonstrators could be seen distributing "Egyptian flags and red cards to drivers and chanting against the Muslim Brotherhood," reports Al Ahram.
“We've had enough of Morsi," activist Ghada Naguib told the Global Post. “We don't need him to do anything anymore. We just need him to leave."
Protesters are erecting more tents in Tahrir Square, the icononic heart of the revolution that swept Mubarak from power in 2011.
In response to the loud call for Morsi to step down, Muslim Brotherhood supporters are holding counter-rallies, with thousands gathered Friday in the Nasser District of Cairo.
Since Thursday, fighting between Morsi supporters and opponents has led to several deaths, the BBC reports.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian army is being rapidly deployed throughout Egypt, including positions at the Suez canal and in front of government ministries.
After Morsi's Wednesday speech snubbing anti-regime protesters, and the Sunday threat by Egypt's Supreme Council of Armed Forces that it would step in to quell unrest, many fear a harsh repression of the mass mobilizations. Amnesty International released a statement Friday urging Egyptian security forces to 'show restraint.'
Morsi is already moving quickly to consolidate power, purging dissenters from state agencies and court positions.
Yet, Morsi's powerful U.S. allies appeared to be weighing against the protests. U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson declared last Friday, "Some say that street action will produce better results than elections. To be honest, my government and I are deeply skeptical. Egypt needs stability to get its economic house in order, and more violence on the streets will do little more than add new names to the lists of martyrs."
Morsi's opponents expressed outrage about Patterson's statement. "The Muslim Brotherhood is ready to offer Egypt on a golden platter to the United States in exchange for Washington's support. It is no surprise that she would say that," activist Shady el-Ghazali declared to the AP, referring to the ambassador's statement.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that he hoped the protests would result in compromise and consensus, viewed as a tacit endorsement of Morsi's continued rule. He also repeated calls for Egypt to move more quickly on IMF loans and economic reforms that many blame for the poverty, energy, and food crises gripping the country.
The U.S. is a major backer of the Morsi regime and Egypt's powerful military, giving $1.3 billion in annual military aid. This is despite widespread charges that the regime has systematically violated human rights, steamrolled democracy, and embraced neoliberal economic policies that deepen poverty and inequality.
Since taking office a year ago, the president has faced more than 9,400 protests, marking a world record for that year.
The Tamarod movement, which grew out of the Kefaya movement launched in 2005 in opposition to Mubarak-era abuses, hopes that Sunday's mass demonstrations will catalyze a revitalization of Egypt's ongoing protests that have been beaten back by severe police and army crackdown.
"Nine months into the reign of [Morsi] and the control of the Muslim Brotherhood over the state, and Egyptian people [have been] murdered and dragged in the street by group militias before the eyes and ears of the world,” stated the Kefaya movement when it released the petition in April.
However, as Sharif Abdel Kouddous reports, the revitalized movement must navigate Egypt's complex political landscape:
Organizers view the petition campaign as deriving revolutionary legitimacy from the street, the same source of authority that toppled Mubarak. Yet much of the discourse around the revived protest mobilization has been hijacked by elements tied to the former regime who have openly called for the army to step in and remove the Brotherhood from power. By most accounts, the chances of this president stepping down are slim. Morsi was voted into office for a four-year term in elections that are widely viewed as being free and fair and the petition to withdraw confidence from the president has no constitutional or legal standing to contest his authority. Morsi himself has called the demands for an early presidential vote as “absurd and illegal.”
What’s more, Morsi is backed by millions of his own supporters, with a core constituency made up of members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which he hails, who have launched a counter signature-gathering campaign called Tagarod—or “Impartiality.”
Protesters will also face security forces armed with U.S.-shipped teargas that has been used regularly as an often lethal weapon against Egyptian protests.
Yet, Morsi's opponents insist that the marches will continue and express hope that this new moment of mobilization can continue the Egyptian revolution.
“We will not leave until the president leaves," declared activist Hossam Mustafa to the AP. "We will win back Egypt for all Egyptians.”