The Egyptian army’s Republican Guard, an elite unit assigned to protect the president and his palaces, surrounded Mohamed Morsi’s gated palace in Cairo Thursday with six tanks and two armored vehicles and put up barbed wire, sending a clear message to protesters that the violent clashes which took place the night before would not be tolerated.
Morsi’s palace has been the scene where riots played out over the past few days between Morsi’s supporters and those who oppose the president and his new draft constitution, which they believe will turn Egypt into an Islamic totalitarian state.
Commander Mohammed Zaki of Egypt's Presidential Guard said that the placement of tanks and armored personnel carriers around the presidential palace was intended to separate supporters of Morsi from his opponents, following violent clashes that erupted Wednesday evening, during which six were killed and hundreds were wounded.
Zaki said the armed forces would not be used to suppress demonstrations.
In order to prevent any violence, an official curfew was issued and protesters on both sides of the political spectrum were given until 3 p.m. to clear the area. An official ban on protests outside all of the country's presidential palaces was also announced.
However, despite this, several protesters continued to demonstrate past the curfew, across the road from the palace, demanding a new constitution and calling for more Egyptians to join in on the protests.
The president’s government was also shaken up Thursday as a number of government officials resigned amid the violent protests. Among those who submitted their resignation were the director of state broadcasting as well as the Christian Rafik Habib, the vice president of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, who was often used by the government as proof of their tolerance and equality.
Zaghoul el-Balshi, the new general secretary of the commission overseeing a planned constitutional referendum, also resigned, saying in a television intervew that he, “will not participate in a referendum that spilled Egyptian blood.” These additional resignations brings the total number of officials who have quit in protest to nine.
Morsi held crisis meetings Thursday with Cabinet members and military leaders.
"The president discussed ways to deal with the situation regarding the political, security and legal landscapes so that Egypt can achieve stability and preserve the gains of the revolution," a presidential statement said.