At least 10 arrested as protesters leave Tahrir amid threats to stage sit-in next Friday

Sherif Tarek , Saturday 1 Oct 2011

Cairo's Tahrir Square is nearly empty Saturday, but some protesters vow to stage an open-ended sit-in next Friday

Friday of Reclaiming the Revolution
Cartoon accusing Mubarak's men of giving orders to SCAF (Photo: Mai Shaheen) 30 September, Tahrir

Only tens of protesters remained in Tahrir Square through Saturday after the "Friday of Reclaiming the Revolution". All started to leave the epicentre of the January uprising this morning, but many are vowing to stage an open-ended sit-in next weekend if their demands are not met.

Around 2000 demonstrators decided on a sit-in in Tahrir by the end of Friday’s protests, in which many political parties, movements and activists took part, mainly to hit out at the military junta and the Supreme Council of Armed Forces.

A mere handful of protesters, however, remained in Tahrir a day later. By 9am, some were cleaning up the central, once grassy, island as several policemen were ensured evacuation of Egypt’s prime venue for demonstrations, though in a friendly manner.

Official news agency MENA said 10 were arrested during dispersing the sit-in.

Political activist and member of No for Military Trials, Mona Seif, told Ahram Online that reports say few had been arrested from Tahrir Saturday morning apart from 11 more arrests during a march late on Friday.

Meanwhile, the large banners that were hung all over the square on Friday were still in place as traffic returned to normal in downtown Cairo. A group of tents were set up in Tahrir Square by the end of Friday’s protests, but most of them were dismantled by Saturday.

A relatively large tent was still in the central island Saturday morning, but the police surrounded it, preventing demonstrators from starting another sit-in.

An 18-day sit-in was staged in Tahrir in the run up to the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak on 11 February. 

A host of political forces started another sit-in 8 July, calling for the realisation of the revolution’s unmet demands, including retribution against those responsible for the killing of unarmed protesters during the uprising.

The 8 July sit-in was forcibly dispersed after three weeks, and ever since the authorities have been keen to prohibit impromptu camps in Tahrir Square.

Central Security Forces (CSF), along with military personnel, even kept the central island surrounded until authorities once again allowed protests to be held at the location, which has become a symbol of popular resistance to tyranny.

The 6 April Youth Movement, Egypt Freedom Party and El-Adl Party were among the political forces who enthusiastically participated in the Friday of Reclaiming the Revolution.

Political commentator Amr Hamzawi and presidential hopeful Mohamed Selim El-Awwa both addressed crowds in the square.

Protesters were surprised and delighted when Hollywood actor and political activist Sean Penn, waving an Egyptian flag, put in an appearance. Penn, a two-time Academy Award winner for his roles in Mystic River and Milk, is an outspoken critic of US policy in the Middle East.

Some of the political forces that protested on Friday threatened to stage a sit-in next Friday if their demands are not met. 

The most prominent demands are the revocation of emergency law and military trials for civilians, the amendment of the parliamentary elections law, the implementation of the Treachery Law, and more significantly, a definitive timetable made by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) for handing over power to a civilian administration.

Presidential candidate Hazem Salah Abou-Ismail said he did not call for a sit-in on Friday but urged demonstrators to start one next Friday if the status quo is unchanged.

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