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Protesters take down barricades and reopen Tahrir Square

After four days of heated public debate, protesters take down barricades and barbed wire to allow traffic and life in Tahrir Square to resume

Ekram Ibrahim , Tuesday 12 Apr 2011
Tahrir Square
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The barricades and barbed wire which have cordoned off Tahrir Square for the past few days have finally been taken down against the will of a hard core of protesters who pushed for a continuous sit-in. The wired fences were removed and loaded onto a damaged army vehicle that was later pushed aside to allow for the flow of traffic.

Tens of protesters approached the streets surrounding the square in the early afternoon chanting, "The people demand the evacuation of the square." Clashes between both sides soon followed until military police arrived in the square, arresting tens of people whom they called "thugs." The roundabout of the square was then completely sealed off by soldiers as armoured cars began to station themselves around the central garden.

The Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) released a statement Monday night on Facebook welcoming activists’ efforts to reopen the Tahrir Square and help life get back to normal.

Moreover, members of the Revolutionary Youth Coalition went to the square Monday evening to debate the current situation with protesters, asking them to remove the barricades and allow traffic to resume.  Some protesters agreed to the removal of the barricades, maintaining their right, nevertheless, to continue demonstrating in the garden. In the end though, fear of being arrested by the military, fear of losing the battle and hope that next Thursday might witness a dramatic increase in their numbers convinced the majority of protesters to maintain their sit-in.

Today the square had a couple of hundred protesters. People stood in groups discussing whether the square should or should not be reopened. The majority were in favour of opening up the square as many people aired their frustrations at the Tahrir protesters. “We want to eat, they are disabling the country,” said Mohamed Ashraf, a grocer who came to Tahrir to ask protesters to leave.

“I think those people are here to become famous, they don’t care about the country,” asserted Tarek Magdy, who was engaged in a debate with the protesters.

On the other hand, many protesters insisted on staying in Tahrir in order to continue exerting pressure on the SCAF and thus speed up the legal proceedings against ousted president Hosni Mubarak. Others wanted, at the very least, an investigation into the 9 April violence.  

“This is the place where the crime has taken place, we should not leave it before investigations begin,” said Ismail Gamal, an activist who has been demonstrating in Tahrir Square since Friday.

However, the SCAF declared in their Saturday press conference that the military did not use force to evacuate Tahrir Square and that the deployed forces were in fact not armed.

Debate on whether protesters should or should not open the square went viral as activists on social media sites heatedly discussed the issue. However, the need to either call off or continue the sit-in was not subject to similar dispute.

Protesters continuing their sit-in in Tahrir Square are demanding the formation of a presidential council which would rule Egypt -- replacing the military council -- in the interim, the immediate trial of ousted president Hosni Mubarak and investigations into the events of 9 April.

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