Several hundred Egyptian protesters breached a concrete and metal barricade outside the presidential palace in Cairo on Tuesday, forcing back the soldiers manning it, AFP correspondents reported.
There was no violent confrontation. The protesters pulled apart a high metal gate bar by bar and toppled concrete blocks with chains.
Soldiers, who had erected the barrier on the weekend to block access roads following violent clashes in the area last week, fell back closer to the palace, which is surrounded by a high brick wall. Six tanks were stationed close to the compound.
The protesters were part of a crowd expected to swell to tens of thousands through Tuesday night to denounce a referendum proposed by President Mohamed Mursi on a draft new constitution written up by his Islamist allies.
A rival counter-demonstration by Mursi supporters was to take place at the same time, starting at a spot not far from the palace, raising fears of further clashes.
Mursi on Monday ordered the army to use temporary police powers to protect the palace and other “vital state institutions”.
The military, which is trying to remain neutral in Egypt’s three-week old political crisis, has vowed to carry out its duty to maintain stability within democratic rules.