In the hours before June 30 in Egypt, thousands were in the streets with a unified chant: “Leave!” The chants were only interrupted by the echo of national songs, fireworks and iconic Egyptian music ahead of the landmark day for the country.
Egyptians are demanding early elections and an end to the Muslim Brotherhood rule. On Saturday, the group behind the popular call for the June 30 protests, Tamarod, or “Rebel”, announced at a press conference the number of Egyptians who wish to see Morsi gone: Twenty-two million, one hundred thirty-four thousand, four hundred and sixty-five. And counting.
President Mohamed Morsi, who came to power exactly one-year ago Sunday, seems to be stumbling on a growing movement of rejection and refusal. Egyptians have marched since Wednesday waving red cards and chanting “down with the regime, down with the Murshid’s rule,” or Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The chants against the government filled the air with an energy that peaked when Mahmoud Badr, spokesperson for Tamarod, announced the numbers to an excited crowd.
“We are inviting the 22,134,456 people who signed to join us tomorrow in all liberation squares, to put the people’s will into actions,” Badr said addressing journalists and activists on Saturday. Tamarod said they were still accepting petitions and called on those who hadn’t signed to join them Sunday across the country.
“The revolution continues and the signatures continue,” Badr affirmed. “Without taking the streets, without civil disobedience and protests these signatures will not mean anything,” he said to the crowd which gave him a standing innovation.
On Saturday, Tamarod -- an independent group that formed two months ago and began to collect signatures in opposition to Morsi's rule -- listed the demands of change: Morsi must step down, and the head of the Supreme Court should come in as president, filling an honorary role while a new constitution is drafted into a document that represents the majority of people and not one segment of society.
A technocrat government is to be established, said the group, and a new and legitimate house of Parliament is to be elected in preparation for early presidential elections.
Tamarod planned to confront President Morsi with not only signatures but the millions of Egyptians who agree that it is too costly for Egypt to go on for four more years in such deteriorating conditions, which has seen violent attacks on anti-government activists.
They announced numerous assembly points where people were due to meet Sunday before heading toward liberation squares in cities across Egypt. Sit-ins are planned and people intend to stay in the squares, with tents already mushrooming in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, outside the Ministry of Defense, and in at least seven other cities.
In four days, clashes between pro- and anti-regime people have left at least five dead and 606 injured, including an Egyptian journalist who died after a locally made explosive device went off close to him during an anti-government march in the coastal city of Port Said.
On Saturday, an assistant of the Minister of Interior, Mohamed Hany, was shot 60 times in his car in al-Arish in the Sinai Peninsula. The recent violence cast a dark shadow over the Sunday protests and forced many to reconsider the peaceful claims of the regime’s supporters.
On Wednesday, the president spoke to the people in a speech that spanned over two and half hours, giving one of his most controversial speeches to date. The head of state went on a vindictive rant against his opponents, both alive and dead. Morsi accused judges of corruption and the opposition of being part of the old guard as he refused to step down, playing down public anger and the national crisis.
“Every time I see long lines for petrol at gas stations, I just want to stop and join them,” said President Morsi with a smile, stirring a wave of laughter from his supporters.
Few others in Egypt were laughing. Official support of the regime is waning, with leading officials deserting in growing numbers.
The Tamarod conference on Saturday was opened by Nadia Henry, a member of the Upper House of Parliament, who announced her resignation, on air, along with nine other members of the civil association block, only to be followed a few hours later by more collective resignations from the Wafd party -- the third largest block in the upper house after the Muslim Brotherhood and the ultra-conservative Nour Party.
Al Azhar, the largest and most respected Sunni institution in the world, warned Saturday about civil war breaking out in Egypt.
“We should stay alert so we don’t slip into civil war, that will not distinguish between pro and anti,” said the Al Azhar head office in a statement.
Tamarod and other opposition groups were accused by the ruling party, the Freedom and Justice Party which is the political arm of the Brotherhood, of launching an attack on one of its headquarters that allegedly left one man dead and others injured.
Egypt’s military announced last week it will be aiding in protecting peaceful protesters against any violent attacks. Army helicopters hovered over several protests on Saturday as people below chanted against the president. Many personnel were expected to take part securing people's safety in public places, and protecting important institutions and artifacts from vandalism. Though helicopters were flying over an anti-Morsi protest in Alexandria, it didn’t prevent violence from occurring elsewhere in the city.
Many Egyptians are skeptical about renewed calls for the military to rule the country following the potential fall of the Muslim Brotherhood state; memories are still fresh from when the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces handled the country during its 2011-2012 transitional stage after the fall of Hosni Mubarak.
The influential politician and former presidential nominee Hamdeen Sabahi said in a video on Saturday that June 30 "is victory day and a continuation of the Egyptian revolution,” and affirmed that the common goal of the protest is early presidential elections. He added that those who defend the president will be isolated, alone in one square, while the majority speak out everywhere for their missing rights.
“If the people spoke by the millions, peacefully, all the state’s institutions will join them, military, police and judges,” said Sabahi.
Egyptians now have a common goal to unify and identify under, much like January 25, 2011. This Sunday, June 30, Egypt puts on its glasses to see how its near and possibly far future is being drawn, mostly, and foremost, by its own hand.