For the pro-Morsi demonstrators who rallied outside a mosque near the presidential palace Friday, the protest served as a chance to defend the president against opponents who they say are trying to cheat the democratic process.
“He will not be removed except through the ballot box,” said Eid Mohamed, a factory technician from the Nile Delta.
Some wore orange hard hats and carried hard plastic tubing — “to defend ourselves,” said Said Osman, a factory manager who was also wearing protective glasses. Vendors hawked wrist and knee braces, as well as flashlights and laser pointers, on the assumption protesters would stay throughout the night. An ambulance waited on standby.
“Those who want to oust the president will have to walk over our dead bodies,” Osman said.
In Tahrir Square, opposition activists spoke with similar vitriol. Many blamed the United States for allegedly supporting Morsi, and they carried pictures of U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson—also with an X over her face.
“I hope to remove Morsi and change the whole system,” said Haitham Amer, an insurance company employee who held a sign reading “Down, down, USA and Israel.”
The Republican Guard fortified security around Cairo’s presidential palace, but there was no security presence at Friday’s rival protests.
“Our faith in the police is about 30 percent,” said a Brotherhood spokesman, Gehad el-Haddad, who said the group had hired private security firms to protect its main headquarters.
He said he feared that without police or military to keep order, “you’ll find citizens on either side taking matters into their own hands.”
Martin Weil , Anne Gearan and Dana Hedgpeth in Washington, David Nakamura in Pretoria, South Africa, and Lara El Gibaly and Sharaf al-Hourani in Cairo contributed to this report.