CAIRO — Massive crowds thronged the streets of Cairo and cities around the country Sunday and marched on the presidential palace in a cheering tide of people that filled a broad avenue for blocks in an attempt to force out the Islamist president with some of the most gigantic protests Egypt has seen in 2 1/2 years of turmoil.
Waving flags, blowing whistles and chanting, the protesters aimed to show by sheer numbers that the country has irrevocably turned against Mohammed Morsi, a year to the day that he was inaugurated as Egypt’s first freely elected president.
Morsi made clear through a spokesman that he will remain in place and his Islamist supporters vowed not to allow protesters to remove one of their own, brought to office in a legitimate vote. Thousands of Islamists massed not far from the presidential palace in support of Morsi, and fears are widespread that the two sides are heading to a violent collision.
At least four people were killed Sunday in shootings at anti-Morsi protesters in southern Egypt. After dark, youths attacked the headquarters of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo with rocks and firebombs, sparking clashes.
But the rampant violence many feared did not erupt so far. Instead, the giant anti-Morsi rallies by hundreds of thousands in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square and outside the Ittihadiya palace were festive and celebratory, spilling into side streets and across boulevards.
Fireworks went off overhead. Men and women, some with small children on their shoulders beat drums, danced and sang, “By hook or by crook, we will bring Morsi down.” Residents in nearby homes showered water on marchers below — some carrying tents in preparation to camp outside the palace — to cool them in the summer heat and blew whistles and waved flags in support.
“Mubarak took only 18 days although he had behind him the security, intelligence and a large sector of Egyptians,” said Amr Tawfeeq, an oil company employee marching toward Ittihadiya with a Christian friend. Morsi “won’t take long. We want him out and we are ready to pay the price.”