In Cairo, protesters streamed mid-morning into Tahrir Square – the symbolic heart of protests that toppled Hosni Mubarak in February – ahead of the rallies scheduled to start after the Muslim Friday prayers.
Youth groups that helped launch the uprising have dubbed Friday “the second day of anger” urging protesters to rally for “an end to political corruption”.
The uprisings’ first “day of anger” on January 28 drew hundreds of thousands of protesters who were furious at government attempts to quash demonstrations by shutting down communication and using violence.
But three months after the revolt, activists are frustrated by the pace of democratic change, and are this time directing their anger at the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
While the revolt achieved its aim of toppling Mubarak, the military retains its absolute and unelected power in Egypt.
Protesters want a civilian government, the acceleration of trials of former regime figures and their removal from top jobs in police, universities and other public institutions.
They are also calling for a return of security forces to the streets, amid weeks of insecurity and sectarian clashes blamed on remnants of the old regime.
But some say Friday’s protests could drive a dangerous wedge between the people and the army.
Chief among them is the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s best organised opposition movement, which said it was “very concerned” by Friday’s protest.
In a statement, the Brotherhood asked “who are the people angry with now?”
The group said the revolution had achieved many of its goals, including not only the ouster of Mubarak, but also his referral to trial along with his sons and associates.
The call to protest can therefore “only mean that the anger is directed at the people themselves or at the army”, said the Islamist group, urging protesters not to divide the people and the military.
The military said in a statement on Thursday that it will steer clear of protests in an effort to avert any unrest.
It warned in a statement on its Facebook page of “suspicious elements who will try to pit the military against the people”, and said it “decided to have completely no presence in areas of protests to avert these dangers”.
Activists say the military council has only agreed to put Mubarak and his sons on trial after intense street pressure, arguing that the momentum must be kept up for a transition to full democracy.