Demonstrators create human shields to maintain presence in Tahrir

Salma Shukrallah , Saturday 5 Feb 2011

As the working week starts, demonstrators embark on their "Resistance Week"

In preparation for what has come to be termed “Martyrs’ Sunday”, tens of thousands of protesters are gathered in Tahrir Square demanding the president’s departure and maintaining “Sumoud”, or “Resistance”, “week”.

“Sumoud”, a term usually used to describe Palestinians’ daily resistance to the Israeli occupation, has been chosen by Egyptian anti-Mubarak demonstrators to describe their days to come resisting what they describe as a “null dictatorship regime”.   

After “Departure Friday”, a day planned to witness Mubarak’s final day in power, and the regime’s hesitance to answer any of the movement’s demands, Egyptians have mobilized for yet another week of revolt.

Amid a state of siege, with army tanks and soldiers surrounding the square, protesters continued to receive supplies from thousands of sympathizers despite the state joining forces with some “popular committees”, bodies originally formed to defend districts against looting, to tighten the flow of goods.

After the Egyptian police force disappeared following the national revolt that shook Egypt on 28 January, leaving hundreds dead and thousands injured, “popular committees” quickly formed to confront the large scale raids, attributed to the remnants of the regime’s police. However, in a matter of days these “popular committees” were quickly infiltrated by the police to regain presence in the streets of Egypt and played a big role in combating anti-Mubarak sentiments in downtown Cairo.

Following a vow that came from the new prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, that Tahrir Square will be emptied before Egypt resumes its normal working days, people gathered there watching the military’s every move.

Tensions escalated when the army’s cranes approached the square’s northern entrance, near Abdel Moneim Riad Street, in an attempt to remove the barricades formed by protesters after long nights of continuous violent and often deadly attacks, attributed to pro-Mubarak supporters. In response, people in Tahrir offered themselves as human shields to protect the entrance, tens slept in front of the tanks as hundreds rushed to stand over and in front of the cranes refusing to let the military clear  the barricades, what they believed to be their only protection. Doctors can still be seen near the entrance anticipating new battles with new injuries.

Apart from the Abdel Moneim Riad entrance, all other entrances leading to Tahrir were relatively calm, as supporters flooded into the square. However, the flow was not as smooth as on “Departure Friday” since several military checkpoints were set to search every single bag and person attempting to join the sit-in. People in the square could be heard giving phone instructions to others trying to bring in supplies as to which entrance is the safest from confiscations.

On the other hand, foreign journalists and correspondents could still be seen lingering about and covering Egypt’s “resistance week” even after several had received threats and harassments from thugs in areas in and around downtown.

Despite the fact that today’s outcomes hardly matched yesterday’s, participants though tired seemed optimistic that “Martyr’s Sunday” will be another “Million Person Demonstration”, as planned. Camps are still set up and chants continue with national songs heard in the background.

However, one concern that lingers on people’s minds is whether the state will succeed in emptying the square as Cairo goes back to work. Protesters fear that all their demands and the lives lost for their battle may be forgotten if their sit-in falters.       

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