Egyptians numbering in the tens of thousands returned to Tahrir Square in Cairo this Friday for a “March of Millions” to protest a revolution that seems to ahve stalled in its tracks and also the slow pace at which ministers from deposed President Hosni Mubarak’s regime have been brought to trial. Al Jazeera reports that protests were held throughout Egypt, in Alexandria and in Suez, where the release of seven police officers on bail earlier this week led to families of victims rioting for two days. Protests also occurred in the southern city of Assiut, with many preparing for a sit-in for “the first time in the conservative south,” notes NPR.
Banners proclaiming “Punishment for the killers of the martyrs” and “Down with the field marshal” were aloft in Tahrir Square, where many had brought tents with plans to remain in the square, despite blistering summer heat. Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi heads the military council that has been ruling Egypt since Mubarak’s ouster on February 18. Tantawi was Mubarak’s defense minister for two decades and is still seen as an “integral part of the old regime”; indeed, “some Egyptians believe he represents the continuation of Mubarak’s lingering power structure that includes the judiciary, police and civil service,” notes Al Jazeera .
In an ironic shift, NPR notes that the military council has a “tendency to communicate mostly through messages on their Facebook page” that has “led many to see them as aloof and out of touch.” The social networking site that has been widely trumpeting for helping to foment the uprising has now become a tool for officials — officials with ties to Mubarak — to keep their distance from the protesters.
Here is a video taken of the March of Millions earlier today.
The huge rally’s organizers also seek to restore a sense of unity to the protest movement, which has become fragmented after the common cause of ousting Mubarak was achieved. Groups who had not been present at earlier protests including the Muslim Brotherhood and ultraconservative Salafis were in Tahrir Square.
Another demand of the protesters was to push back elections which the military council says wil be held at a yet-to-be-determined date in September. As NPR says, “many liberal and secular activists demand that the ruling military push back the parliament elections, saying political parties can’t be ready in time for September.” The well-organized Muslim Brotherhood has opposed any delay, as has the military council.
Protesters have said they will not leave Tahrir Square until their demands are met:
“The military council is being wishy-washy,” said protester Mohammed al-Tayyib in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the uprising that toppled Mubarak. “No one is being brought to trial and nothing is moving.”…
“Things are going in the wrong direction,” said protester Lilian Wagdy. She complained of the many civilians convicted by military courts while trials of security officials are often postponed or release the accused.
“Revolution First” was the huge rally’s slogan, says the Guardian. As they had during the uprising earlier this year, civiliians took it upon themselves to police Tahrir, setting up checkpoints to keep “thugs” from entering. As this photo by Lilian Wagdy shows, thousands remain in Tahrir right now, ready to continue the revolution.
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