Thousands of protesters attended Friday’s rally in Tahrir Square to call on the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to transfer power to a civilian administration and to honour the revolution's martyrs.
Following Friday’s noon prayer, hundreds of protesters – some dressed in black and many others with symbolic eye patches – set off from Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque on a symbolic funeral march to pay their respect to protesters who lost their lives during last week’s bloody clashes in Tahrir Square and Mohammed Mahmoud Street. Last week’s violence between security forces and the military on one hand and protesters on the other kick started what many have termed the Egyptian Revolution’s second wave, leaving at least 42 demonstrators dead and hundreds injured.
Protesters marched on Tahrir bearing 21 figurative coffins adorned with the names of the martyrs and several lamentations. One such lamentation read, “I came happily to ask you, oh mother (referring to Egypt), for a wedding dress (emblematic of the revolution) and you gave me my coffin.”
The marchers’ numbers would reach around 700 as they approached Tahrir Square, chanting among other slogans “The people demand the removal of the regime”; “We either die like them (referring to the martyrs) or we secure their rights” and “Egypt is a country not a barracks.”
Other chants decried police brutality and the use of deadly force by security forces and the military against peaceful demonstrators. A large banner led the procession with the question “How much of the Egyptian blood is enough for the SCAF to go?”
Ultras White Knights, hardcore supporters of Cairo football club Zamalek, joined the marchers as they approached the square, honouring the death of one of their members with a sorrowful song. Pockets of protesters tore down the campaign slogans and banners belonging to parliamentary candidates they identified as remnants of the former regime. Upon entering Tahrir Square, the protesters en masse began chanting “Oh Tantawi (referring to the country’s de-facto military ruler), oh you scum, the blood of Egyptians isn’t cheap.”
The vast majority of the marchers were prevented from accessing Mohamed Mahmoud Street that has been blocked off by groups not wanting protesters to reach the military’s wall, which now blocks the way to the reviled Ministry of Interior – the focal point of last week’s clashes. Tens, however, made it to the wall, chanting against military rule and deriding the army for its brutal and deadly hand.
Presidential candidates Mohamed ElBaradei and Hamdeen Sabahy announced their support of Friday’s protests.
The April 6 Youth Movement has demanded the formation of a revolutionary salvation government, declaring the ruling military junta’s appointment of Kamal El-Ganzoury to the premiership a manipulation of the revolution’s demands.
The Movement announced in a statement issued Thursday that it plans to call for an open-ended sit-in until its demands are met.
The organisers of Friday's events, dedicated to the “heroes of Mohamed Mahmoud,” include the Egyptian Social Democrats Party, several youth blocs from across Egypt, the Revolutionary Socialists and the Socialist Popular Alliance Party.
Tahrir Square maintained its own tempo throughout with numbers swelling as the aforementioned march approached but dwindling later in the evening. The past few days have seen small clashes break out between vendors and various “security” elements within the square. Yet again, as in July and August, talk has turned to infiltrators, vendors and the ebb of protesters. As this article goes to print, protesters in Tahrir Square and the Cabinet’s offices are meeting to determine whether to end Tahrir’s two-week sit-in, relocate or extend it.
Across town, in Abbassiya Square, hundreds of SCAF supporters staged a rally to support the ruling military junta and security forces. Speakers denounced both ElBaradei and protesters in Tahrir as enemies of the people and agents of the West.
Tawfik Okasha, an outspoken supporter of SCAF and an anchor with Faraeen TV, told reporters, "I want to see honourable people carrying the new prime minister [Kamal El-Ganzouri] on their shoulders into the Cabinet’s offices.” He added, "They should step with their shoes on the 5 per cent that insist on using Tahrir to speak in the name of the nation."