Hundreds of thousands gather in Tahrir square for Determination Friday (Photo: Reuters)
Angered that no change is yet visible since the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak, hundreds of thousands have gathered again at Tahrir square and in cities around the country, insisting that the basic demands of the revolution be met. Demonstrators came from across Egypt’s provinces to assemble at Cairo’s downtown square, now a symbol of Egypt’s revolution.
Several stages had been set hours before the break of day, one by the Revolution Youth Coalition, one by a coalition of liberal parties and movements, one by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), one belonging to the Wafd party and another to leftist parties. The Muslim Brotherhood’s stage was the highest and biggest, provoking many of the protestors who complained that the MB is trying to steal all the attention of the public. The MB has already angered many with their stand against the sit-in many political groups are calling for to pressure the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) into meeting the revolution’s demands.
The MB, which decided to join the protests only two days ago, has stated that they will not be supporting the sit-in, planned to go on until demands are met, and announced instead they would be leaving at 5pm. They began to pack up and leave the square shortly after 5.
In Tahrir many demonstrators carried banners reading “I will be joining the sit-in”. Tens of tents have been set up since Thursday night.
Despite tensions, demonstrators have tried to maintain a level of unity diffusing quarrels as they erupt. One dispute was triggered by a banner reading “The constitution first” and another by the slogan “the people and the army are one hand”. Many political groups and movements had previously agreed, after long disputes, that the demand for drafting a new constitution before holding parliamentary elections will not be included among Determination Friday’s demands so as not to create divisions. However, no consensus was reached prior to Friday regarding the SCAF, and many chanted against the council.
The demonstrators’ main demands include the speedy trial of police officers responsible for killing the martyrs, the speedy trial of Mubarak and corrupt ex-regime figures, setting a minimum wage, restructuring the ministry of interior and cleansing the police force.
Shoeib El-Aasar, an employee at Suez Canal University, says he came from Ismailiya to demand retribution for the martyrs of the revolution. El-Aasar says he came on Thursday night and spent the night in Tahrir with more than 7000 other protestors, many of whom had come from outside Cairo. In Ismailiya, Aasar explains, he has also protested for higher wages and stable employment contracts with his fellow colleagues only a week before he came to Cairo. He complains that he gets paid no more than LE500 ($83.9) a month, which makes it necessary for him to take on another job working at a restaurant during the evening.
A huge overarching tent now covers the central island of Tahrir square providing protection for at least some of the demonstrators from the scorching summer sun. Underneath, several small tens were set up, each with the name of the group, movement or party to which it belongs. The tents were mainly set up by those planning to take part in the open-ended sit-in, which aims to continue until the revolution’s demands are met. Most of the tents were set up the day before.
Street vendors sold water bottles and head caps by the dozen as protestors struggled with the heat. The MB handed out head caps with the organization’s logo to members of their group. Other newly formed groups did the same.
Despite disagreements and a few of disputes, Determination Friday has proven successful, with one of the largest turnouts since the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak.