Just today, tanks entered Cairo’s Tahrir Square and started firing in the air, to clear the square — where a sit-in has been going on since July 8 to protest the slow pace of reform in Egypt — of the remaining activists. Egyptian state television showed footage of people taking down tents and at least a dozen tanks in the square; a few hundred people are said to remain in Tahrir. According to Al Jazeera, local shopkeepers said that the protesters were “interfering with their businesses”; when protesters reportedly refused to leave, the army and riot police moved in. Some protesters threw rocks and stones and suffered injuries and some were arrested.
This video shows the army moving into Tahrir Square.
More videos of the army crackdown on protesters in Tahrir can be seen at Arabawy.
The New York Times reports that plainclothes policemen tore down the tents with sticks and shredded the fabric. They also prevented people from taking photographs of the expulsion and took the cameras and cell phones of some who had taken pictures; activists are being prevented from reentering the square. In the Guardian, Jack Shenker reports about the violent retaking of Tahrir Square by Egypt’s military:
Some locals cheered as the sit-in was dispersed, highlighting a growing division over tactics at the heart of the protest movement. Around 30 of the political forces participating in the occupation had decided to suspend their involvement throughout the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began on Monday. But several hundred hardcore demonstrators remained in Tahrir, including some relatives of those killed in the anti-government uprising earlier this year, vowing only to leave when Mubarak had faced justice.
“When normal people beat us in Abbasiya, that was painful,” wrote one activist on Twitter, referring to clashes last week which left dozens injured. “To hear that people are cheering [today] because the army beat martyrs’ families, that’s devastating.”
Local news outlet Al-Shorouk said that military personnel went on to destroy a series of recently-installed revolutionary artworks inside Sadat metro station, which lies underneath the square. The move is likely to further exacerbate tensions between revolutionaries and the supreme council of the armed forces (SCAF), which has been forced to defend itself in recent weeks against claims that it is not truly committed to democratic transition or the holding of former regime officials to account.
Al Jazeera reports that “there was a split when it came to protesters who wanted to stay and those who wanted to move out.” Members of the April 6th youth movement also said that the military also attacked the mosque where they were seeking shelter; protesters said they would return when the military was gone.
Protesters had said they would suspend the sit-in during the month of Ramadan, one of Islam’s most important holy days, which begins today and return afterwards.
According to the official Egyptian Middle East News Agency, “the square had been reopened to traffic”; no mention was made of the “security operation that preceded it,” comments the New York Times.
The trial of former president Hosni Mubarak and his sons, Alaa and Gamal, is to begin in just two days. While the trial was originally to be held at the Cairo convention center, it is now being moved to a police academy that is farther away from the center of Cairo, says the BBC; an auditorium at the police academy holds about 600 people. According to appeals court president Abdel Aziz Omar, Mubarak’s trial, which will be televised, was moved “because it is difficult to guarantee the protection of the other place.” The police academy was originally named after Mubarak, but the large concrete letters spelling his name have been torn down.
Mubarak faces charges of corruption and of ordering the military to fire on protesters during the 18 days of the uprising earlier this year. At least 850 were killed in the uprising. Mubarak has been held at the hospital in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh since April; there have been numerous conflicting reports about his health, including that he has not been eating and is suffering from depression. But the government says he is well enough to stand trial. Former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly, who has already been sentenced to twelve years for corruption, and six senior police officials will also be tried alongside Mubarak and his sons.
This video shows Tahrir Square after the army crack down on protesters on Monday.
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Photo of Tahrir Square on 29 July, Friday, by lilianwagdy