Across Egypt today, massive protests called for president Mohammed Morsi — and by proxy the Muslim Brotherhood party he represents — to leave office. And while the movement might sound like a repeat of the Arab Spring, which led to the ouster of Honsi Mubarak and to the election of the current government, the June 30 protests are likely some of the biggest the country, or for that matter, the entire region, has ever seen. Crowd estimates are always approximate, but Egyptian military representatives are estimating as many as 14 million demonstrators took to the streets today, out of a total population of 84 million. The consensus is that country-wide, the number of demonstrators are in the millions. The pro-Morsi counter protests were much smaller, estimated in the thousands. As for why the demonstrations were on June 30th: today is the one-year anniversary of Morsi's inauguration into the presidency.
Few were expecting today's demonstrations to be this size, and Morsi had tried to downplay today's planned demonstrations by claiming that they were nothing more than pro-Mubarak shams, until the sheer numbers rendered that argument absurd. While there were reports of hundreds of injuries and at least four dead, the bulk of the main protests weren't as violent as feared. But, serving as a reminder of how quickly things can change, and how few people it takes to do so, a small group of protesters set fire to the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Cairo late on Sunday. At least two were reportedly shot dead in response. Meanwhile, Ahram reports that Morsi supporters attacked and opened fire on an anti-Muslim Brotherhood demonstration in Beni Suef, south of Cairo. There were also multiple reports of sexual harassment in Tahrir Square, in Cairo.
Morsi told the Guardian that he will not step down in response to the demonstrations, citing the elections that put him there as a strong enough mandate to justify serving the remainder of his term:
"If we changed someone in office who [was elected] according to constitutional legitimacy – well, there will be people opposing the new president too, and a week or a month later they will ask him to step down."
Protestors are hoping the demonstrations will turn into a sustained movement against the president. Labor strikes are planned for tomorrow, and at least some demonstrators have vowed to stay put until Morsi goes. It took 18 days of demonstrations, just for comparison, to remove Mubarak from office.
Meanwhile, the photos coming out of Egypt are perhaps the most effective way to show just how big today's demonstrations were:
This photo is of the demonstration in Mansoura:
المنصورة لوحدها أكبر من رابعة! pic.twitter.com/nF4s0BKZRj— Sarah Ebeid (@SarahEbeid) June 30, 2013
A panoramic view of Itihadeya from our balcony pic.twitter.com/jcMCGt3OXU— Amir Samy Effat (@amireffat) June 30, 2013