CAIRO - Opponents of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi clashed with his supporters on Tuesday in the central province of Minya, as protests erupted across the country against his expanded powers.

Protesters marched to the headquarters of Mursi’s Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, and tore down a picture of the president, prompting clashes with his supporters, witnesses said. Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd and three people were injured in the clashes, a security official told AFP.

Demonstrators also took to the streets in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and the central province of Sohag. The protests come as tens of thousands of Mursi opponents surrounded the presidential palace in Cairo to denounce a decree expanding his powers and placing him beyond judicial oversight.

The protesters cut through barbed wire erected a few hundred metres (yards) from the palace, prompting police to fire the tear gas before retreating, allowing demonstrators to reach the palace walls, AFP correspondents said.

A handful of protesters tried to scale the wall but were brought back down by others. Protesters surrounded the palace on at least three sides.

The demonstrators, many from liberal and leftist political movements, banged on lamp posts as others chanted “leave” in a thunderous show of force.

Marchers poured into the streets lining the palace in the upscale neighbourhood of Heliopolis, with riot police only able to guard entrances.

Tuesday’s protests were the latest in a string of action opposed to Mursi’s decree which expanded his powers and enabled him to rush through a draft constitution contested by liberals, leftists and Christians.

The United States on Tuesday appealed for restraint on both sides in Egypt.

“We would simply urge that protesters express their views peacefully and that they be given the environment, if you will, to protest peacefully,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

Toner acknowledged that tensions were high Cairo, where thousands of people surrounded the presidential palace to denounce a decree expanding Mursi’s powers and placing him beyond judicial oversight.

Toner stressed that the Egyptian people should have the opportunity to express themselves on a new constitution that is moving toward a referendum on December 15.

“In the coming days, it’s going to be important that they have an opportunity to express their views, as I said, peacefully, and ultimately that they are able to express their views in a vote, in a peaceful and secure environment,” Toner said.