Tahrir protest swells by midday

Salma Shukrallah, Friday 27 May 2011

Friday's Tahrir Square 'Second Day of Rage' demonstration is a 100,000-strong by midday as the Muslim Brotherhood steer clear of the protest

Tahrir May 27
Egyptian protesters carry Egyptian flags and an anti Mubarak banner during a rally at Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt Friday, May 27, 2011. Thousands of protesters poured into downtown Cairo's Tahrir Square Friday for what they called a "second revolution," striking a harsh tone against Egypt's military rulers, and say "Egyptians' revolution is not over." (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

Increasing numbers of protestors are still heading to Tahrir Square hours after Friday prayers. The protest which began with several thousand increased, reaching at least a hundred thousand by midday despite the extremely hot and sandy weather.

Street vendors could be seen on every corner selling water and head caps to demonstrators who were struggling at first with the hot sun until the weather began to ease up after a cloud drifted over Tahrir Square, sprinkling drops of rain.  

Four stages were erected around the square, each with a different focus. The stage constructed by the Youth Coalition, near Talaat Harb Street, became the square's focal point after Friday prayer when the Imam sermonised from the stage, stressing that “the demonstration is not planned to challenge a certain body but to put forward demands.”

The socialist Popular Alliance Party stage closer to Abdel-Moneim Riad Square, however, was more expressive of its anti-military council sentiment. It also focused mainly on social demands including the application of a minimum and maximum wage.

The stage closer to Kasr El-Nil Bridge, raised by the liberal Democratic Front Party, focused on demands to establish a presidential council and postpone elections. These two demands were held by many others in the square and although refused by many of the participants, such opposition was not expressed.

All the stages pointedly focused on ending military trials of civilians and speeding up the trial of ex-regime figures, including the ousted president, while also opening up the proceedings to the public.

An obvious anti-Muslim Brotherhood sentiment prevailed in the square coupled with heated criticism of the Brotherhood’s decision to boycott the demonstration as well as its alleged role in recent media attacks. The demonstrators chanted “Where are the Brotherhood, here is Tahrir”.

Despite the presence of several Muslim Brotherhood members, their numbers were too insignificant, leaving them unable to counter the criticism they faced for the organisation’s official stand.

The general sentiment expressed by the banners and the speeches reflected a feeling that little change has been felt since the ousting of president Hosni Mubarak. Ongoing corruption is a theme often brought into focus as several government members and employees drew blame from protesters in Tahrir Square; among them was Gawdat El-Malt, Head of the Central Auditing Apparatus, who is allegedly covering up major corruption cases. Demonstrators were also heard, chanting “Down with the Prosecutor General”.

Talks and debates are currently circulating within the square as protesters remain uncertain whether the demonstration should be extended to a sit-in or not.

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