EGYPT: Activists back in Tahrir Square to salvage revolution
For the first time since the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11, a large-scale sit-in with tents and banners is hunkered in Tahrir Square as protesters and activists demand that the revolution's ideals are not swept aside by the ruling military council.
Angered by the adjournment of trials for police officers charged with killing protesters between Jan. 25 and Feb. 11, as well as corruption trials involving Mubarak, his two sons and ex-ministers who served during his reign, tens of thousands marched in Tahrir on Friday. Many of them were still there Sunday.
Unlike many past Fridays, when demonstrations in Cairo's main square ended at nightfall, as many as 2,000 protesters, activists and families of those killed and injured during the revolution have decided not to leave the square before all demands of the revolution are met by both the interim government and the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF).
''Just like we came here in January and stayed for 18 days to remove Mubarak, we will remain here this time around to save our revolution and pressure for the achievement of all the revolution's main targets," says Fathi Mohamed, a 27-year-old lawyer who has been in the square since Friday.
Protesters are calling for speedier trials, better health and social care, higher wages and the dismissal of Mubarak-era offcials who remain in their posts. The protest has closed the square to traffic as demonstrators have set up barricades. Protesters also ringed the government's administrative complex, blocking hundreds of employees from their jobs.
In an attempt to persuade protesters to end the sit-in, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf addressed the nation on Saturday, promising to expel all police officers charged with murder and to assign certain judges and prosecutors to swiftly handle their trials. The activists were not impressed and it appeared once again that protesters and the government were locked in a volatile stand-off.
"We want real acts, not words," said Kotb Abdel Moula, a 22-year-old business student. "Sharaf's statement did not tackle all our demands and we feel disappointed by his reaction to our sit-in. Both the government and the ruling SCAF only act under our pressure and that's why we will keep pressuring for as long as it takes."
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: Protesters bed down in Tahrir Square's middle garden. Credit: AFP