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Supporters and Opponents of Egypt’s Morsi Stage Rallies Before Referendum

December 11, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
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RAY SUAREZ: Cairo is the scene of mass rallies again tonight. Demonstrators on both sides of the upcoming referendum are on the streets of the capital.

Their refrain was bread, freedom and Sharia, or Islamic law, from supporters of President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo.

“Morsi, Morsi,” they chanted.

Supporters also gathered in the coastal city of Alexandria this evening, just days before a referendum on a draft constitution. It would affirm many tenets of Sharia as the law of the land.

SAID KASSEM,Egypt (through translator): I support the president. And I think that opponents of the president claim that Egypt would turn into an Islamic state. But the reality is that they do not want a constitution that contains Islamic law, and they fear the growth of the Islamic political current.

RAY SUAREZ: Back in Cairo, Morsi’s opponents gathered again, separated from the president’s Muslim Brotherhood backers by barricades.

ABDEL AZIZ FAHMY, Egypt (through translator): All these barricades you see here will not stop a million revolutionaries. They will eat these stones, not demolish them. They will eat them.

RAY SUAREZ: Violence between the two sides last week killed seven and wounded hundreds. And before dawn today, masked gunman sprayed bird shot at protesters in Tahrir Square miles from the presidential palace. Nine people were hurt.

Amid the action in the streets, some in the anti-Morsi faction urged like-minded Egyptians to skip this weekend’s voting, and a group of judges voted overwhelmingly not to oversee Saturday’s referendum.

But others opposed the boycott and argued that voting no would be more meaningful.

AL SHARIF MOHAMMED,Egypt (through translator): Do not ruin your vote. Not going to vote is a negative act and will be of no use to anything. Go down and vote. Say no, so the revolution can unite us, one hand with the civil state and freedom.

RAY SUAREZ: Meanwhile, Egypt’s military chief called for nonpolitical national unity talks tomorrow. Over the weekend, Morsi vested the army with new powers to enforce security and safeguard state institutions

Also, today, funding those institutions was at issue. A nearly $5 billion International Monetary Fund loan was delayed, at Egypt’s request, until the political crisis abates.