Tens of thousands of demonstrators supportive of President Mohamed Morsy began filling Al-Nahda Square in front of Cairo University on Saturday morning. The demonstration, which had originally been planned to take place in Tahrir Square, was held to express support for Morsy, his constitutional declaration and the draft constitution passed by the Constituent Assembly early Friday morning.
Buses lined the streets surrounding the university as members from a wide range of Islamist groups converged on Al-Nahda Square from governorates throughout Egypt.
The “million man march,” was named the “support for legitimacy and Shari’a march” by its organisers, which include the Muslim Brotherhood, the Freedom and Justice Party, the Salafi Calling, Al-Nour party, Gama’a Islamiyaa, the Construction and Development party and the Asala party.
Demonstrators erected a stage adorned with banners of support for the president and the proposed constitution.
Those in the square and the streets surrounding it chanted, “the people want the implementation of Shari’a,” and “revolutionaries, free, we will support [Morsy’s] decision,” in reference to his constitutional declaration.
“We are all here to support our president,” said Wael Mohamed Abdel-Qader, who held a black Islamist flag. “The opposition wanted to interfere in the [Constituent] Assembly so that they could change our constitution, the Quran, and the teachings of Allah.”
“The secularists and liberals are minorities in Egypt,” he added.
“President Morsy made these decisions so that the revolution could continue,” said Essam, a member of the FJP who traveled from Mahalla to participate in the rally. “I support our constitution and it will receive the majority in the referendum, God willing.”
Another demonstrator named Ahmed said, “we demand [Tahrir] Square, the ‘square of feloul’ to even just mention Shari’a even once and we’ll be satisfied,”
“This constitution is the furthest we as Islamists can go to compromise with the liberals,” he added.
Different stages in the square played songs celebrating the president’s achievements, and mocking opposition figures including Mohamed ElBaradei and Hamdeen Sabahy.
Others celebrated the dismissal of former Prosecutor General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, who was ousted by the president’s declaration.
The group changed the planned location of the demonstration to Cairo University following fear that holding it in Tahrir would lead to clashes between the president’s supporters and opposition groups.
“Egypt’s Islamist parties, groups and movements reiterate their firm belief that Tahrir Square, as a symbol of the Egyptian revolution, belongs to all Egyptians,” read a statement from the protest organisers.
“Undoubtedly, Egypt’s Islamists are capable of mobilising millions of people in Tahrir Square to announce their full support for the legitimacy of Egypt’s elected president and for the confirmation of the identity of the nation.”
The statement cited “national interest” and a desire to “prevent further division and conflict in the street” for the decision to change the location of the demonstration.
Marches from Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque in Mohandessin, Amr bin Al-Aas Mosque in Old Cairo, and Al-Istaqama Mosque in Giza arrived in Al-Nahda square throughout the day.
Demonstrators attacked a van from Al-Nahar television channel when it attempted to arrive in Giza to cover the rally.
Media reported one fatality at the rally on Saturday afternoon, but said it was not a violent one.
The actual number of demonstrators was a subject of dispute throughout Friday. The governor of Giza, Ali Abdul Rahman, claimed in a telephone interview with Al-Nahar that Al-Nahda Square and the surrounding streets could not accommodate more than 50,000 people.