Image: Crowd gathers in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday
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A rally in Cairo's Tahrir Square drew thousands of protesters Friday.
msnbc.com news services
updated 11/18/2011 12:13:48 PM ET 2011-11-18T17:13:48

Over 50,000 Egyptian protesters flocked to Cairo's Tahrir Square Friday to pressure the military government to transfer power to elected civilian rule, after the cabinet tried to enshrine the army's role in a constitutional proposal.

The protesters sang religious chants before Friday prayers, while others handed out fliers demanding the withdrawal of the constitutional proposal and presidential elections be held no later than April 2012.

"Does the government want to humiliate the people? The people revolted against Mubarak and they will revolt against the constitution they want to impose on us," a member of an orthodox Islamic Salafi group cried out over loud speakers, to the cheers of thousands of protesters.

"Down to military rule" and "No to making the army a state above the state" were some of the chants echoing across Tahrir Square.

Except for the preponderance of bearded men and veiled women typical of strict Islamists, the mass rally recalled the demonstrations in Tahrir Square during the 18-day bloody uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 18.

The rally was dominated by the country's most organized political group, the Muslim Brotherhood.

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It was called to protest a document floated by the government that declares the military the guardian of "constitutional legitimacy," suggesting the armed forces could have the final word on major policies.

The Brotherhood says the document reinforces "dictatorship," and has promised an escalation if it is not shelved.

Organizers said Friday's rally was an attempt to put "the revolution back on track."

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Other groups such as the April 6 movement are demanding a timetable for the end of military rule that began after Mubarak was deposed.

A military source said on Friday that the army would hand power to a civilian government in 2012, without giving a exact date.

Deputy Prime Minister Ali al-Silmi showed a constitutional draft to political groups earlier this month that would give the army exclusive authority over its internal affairs and budget.

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But negotiations over the plan between the government and Islamists and liberals have broken down, prompting political parties and democracy campaigners to protest.

"The protest ... is to reclaim power from the army and oppose Silmi's document," said Mohamed Fathi from the youth group the Front to Protect the Revolution.

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Any extended protest by demonstrators camping in Tahrir Square could potentially destabilize preparations for a parliamentary vote due on November 28.

Political groups have demanded the military council announce a clear timetable for handing power over to an elected civilian government with a deadline for presidential elections no later than April 2012.

Salafi parties and movements who follow strict Islamic teachings were the earliest to galvanize support for the Friday protest, with the Muslim Brotherhood and a number of liberal parties following suit.

Thousands of Salafi protesters arrived in Cairo from different parts of the country, many waving flags and singing the national anthem while youth groups guarded entrances to the square to prevent thugs from slipping through.

"We came by bus from the Nile Delta. We have been called to come and show our refusal of army rule and support of civilian rule," said Mohamed Ali, a member of the Salafi Al-Asalah party.

In the port city of Alexandria, thousands of Islamists and youth groups also held a rally and planned to head to a military base in a show of protest against the army.

"We went down to demand change but they removed Mubarak and brought the Field Marshal," protesters in Alexandria chanted, referring to Mubarak's former defense minister who now heads the military council that is supposed to guide Egypt to democracy.

Thousands also gathered in the Northern Sinai and Upper Egypt regions to protest but they called for an Islamic state, not a civilian state, the demand of protesters in the capital and Alexandria.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Photos: Farewell Friday

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  1. Anti-government protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation in Cairo on Feb. 11. (Dylan Martinez / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Egyptians set off fireworks as they celebrate in Cairo’s Tahrir Square after President Mubarak resigned and handed power to the military. (Khalil Hamra / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. President Barack Obama makes a statement on the resignation of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak in the Grand Foyer at the White House in Washington D.C. (Carolyn Kaster / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Egyptians celebrate in Tahrir Square after President Hosni Mubarak resigned and handed power to the military on Friday. Egypt exploded with joy, tears, and relief after pro-democracy protesters brought down President Hosni Mubarak with a momentous march on his palaces and state TV. Mubarak, who until the end seemed unable to grasp the depth of resentment over his three decades of authoritarian rule, finally resigned Friday. (Khalil Hamra / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Protesters walk over a barricade after it was taken down to allow free entry to hundreds of thousands of Egyptians in Tahrir Square in Cairo February 11, 2011. A furious wave of protest finally swept Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak from power, sending a warning to autocrats across the Arab world and beyond. (Yannis Behrakis / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A spokesman for Egypt's higher military council reads a statement titled “Communiqué No. 3” in this video still on Friday. Egypt's higher military council said it would announce measures for a transitional phase after President Hosni Mubarak stepped down. (Reuters Tv / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Egyptian celebrates in Cairo after the announcement of President Mubarak's resignation. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Mubarak's resignation in Cairo on Friday. A furious wave of protest finally swept Mubarak from power after 30 years of one-man rule, sparking jubilation in the streets. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. An Egyptian reacts in the street after President Hosni Mubarak resigned and handed power to the military in Cairo, Egypt, on Friday, Feb. 11. (Amr Nabil / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Thousands of Egyptian anti-government protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation on Friday. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Egyptian soldiers celebrate with anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square on Friday. Cairo's streets exploded in joy when Mubarak stepped down after three-decades of autocratic rule and handed power to a junta of senior military commanders. (Marco Longari / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Anti-government protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation in Cairo on Friday. (Dylan Martinez / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Egyptians celebrate the news of Mubarak's resignation in Tahrir Square on Friday. (Tara Todras-whitehill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. An Egyptian woman cries as she celebrates the news of the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, who handed control of the country to the military, Friday night, in Tahrir Square, Cairo. (Tara Todras-whitehill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Egyptian anti-government protesters celebrate minutes after the announcement on television of the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday. Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had resigned. (Khaled Elfiqi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Opposition protesters celebrate Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak's resignation, in Tahrir Square on Friday. President Mubarak bowed to pressure from the street and resigned, handing power to the army. (Suhaib Salem / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Anti-government protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Mubarak's resignation in Cairo on Friday. (Dylan Martinez / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. On Egyptian state television, Al-Masriya, Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman delivers an address announcing that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has stepped down, in Cairo on Friday. (TV via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Anti-government protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation in Cairo
    Dylan Martinez / Reuters
    Above: Slideshow (18) Egypt's Mubarak steps down - Farewell Friday
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Video: Mubarak makes court appearance in cage

  1. Closed captioning of: Mubarak makes court appearance in cage

    >> first public appearance since the uprising, hosni mubarak appeared in a cairo court today on a stretcher and behind a cage. nbc's martin fletcher is in cairo with more.

    >> reporter: natalie, it's almost unbelievable. dramatic story today here. 30 years of total power, hosni mubarak , 83 years old, wheeled into the courtroom on a stretcher, checked inside a metal cage with his two sons who, also, by the way, was with him. mubarak didn't seem frail despite his lawyer's claims he was too weak to stand trial. the charges, corruption and the killing of protesters, 850 killed by security forces in the protests in january. for this, mubarak faces a death penalty. today he said he categorically denies all charges. the opening of the trial was on egyptian tv and achieved many things here that they say, this is not punishing mubarak , this is a warning to whoever follows him as a leader. whatever you do your are a harm to the people in is a revolution. natalie?

    >> all right, martin, such a striking image there in cairo , egypt.

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