EGYPT's presidential palace was encircled by anti-Muslim Brotherhood protesters in a violent demonstration as the constitutional crisis caused by Mohammed Morsi's assumption of powers showed no sign of abating.
Mr Morsi was forced to leave the Cairo palace through a back door as up to 100,000 people moved in to surround it. Some stones were thrown, one hitting the rear car in the president's convoy.
Ignoring tear gas, the protesters burst through two police lines to reach the palace, which was the site of the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak last year.
The demonstrators chanted: "The people want the downfall of the regime." Mr Morsi thought he had won a significant victory when the Supreme Judicial Council countermanded decisions by judges to boycott a referendum set to approve a constitution that opponents say fails to respect key rights.
The rally suggested opposition would continue. "Thousands of people are joining us in this demonstration," said Hussein Abdelghani, a spokesman for the National Salvation Front.
The party is the coalition of liberal, leftist and secular parties led by Mohamed El Baradei, the former United Nations Atomic Agency chief, which is organising the protests.
Maryam Samy (25), a telecommunications engineer, said: "They want to apply their own standards of freedom, which is not freedom. This constitution is worse than the Mubarak constitution. The Brotherhood are using the poor and religion to divide society." The rally provided a stark illustration of the dividing line that has cut across Egypt.
Saturday's marches by the Muslim Brotherhood also mustered hundreds of thousands, largely from the suburbs and the conservative provincial towns. The secular rally's crowd was younger and more modern and included thousands of women, many not even wearing headscarves.
Many were dismissive of the Brotherhood's support. Ali Sisy, of a liberal newspaper, said: "This is a conflict between ignorance and civilisation."
"We're glad Egyptians are able to express opinion freely and hopefully peacefully," the Brotherhood's website said. "Ballot box to decide outcome."
(© Daily Telegraph, London)