By 6:00pm on Friday, tens of thousands were still gathered in downtown Cairo’s Tahrir Square after a day of mass protests. Demonstrators hit the streets in a number of Egyptian cities following Friday’s prayer, showing support for the martyrs’ families, deploring police brutality and calling for swift and decisive actions against the culprits.
Police and military forces were notably absent, presumably avoiding further clashes with the protesters as they vented their anger over the events which transpired on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
About two hundred or so protesters occupied Tahrir Square overnight in preparation for Friday’s demonstrations. Hours before the start of Friday prayer, the square begin to swell with new arrivals, and by noon, the epicentre of the January 25 Revolution was nearly packed with protesters. Many came to express their viewpoints and criticisms on stage via the loud speakers which have become typical of Tahrir’s Friday demonstrations.
As the heat became unbearable, protesters left, vowing to return to the square by 4:00pm.
Keeping with their promises, a massive march kicked off at 4:00pm heading towards the Cabinet offices to reiterate the demands of the martyrs’ families.
Ten political movements, including the Revolution Youth Coalition, and seven parties, including Karama, the Democratic Front and the Tagammu Party, took part in the march.
A group of people deviated from the march and moved towards the ministry of interior, where military police forces were deployed.
According to an Ahram Online reporter, some of the protesters threw rocks at the ministry while the rest stopped them, chanting “peaceful, peaceful.”
According to several accounts on Twitter, central security personnel stoned them back.
Similarly, certain demonstrators from the bigger group of protesters, numbering around 4,000, penetrated the Cabinet offices amid a notable lack of security presence.
The intruders were pulled back by their fellow protesters as well.
Chants against Egypt’s de-facto leader Field Marshall Mohammed Hussein Tantawi were could be heard throughout the day.
In the coastal city of Suez, El-Arbaeen Square witnessed a rally led by the martyrs’ families. The Revolutionary Youth staged a sit-in in Suez on Thursday in preparation for Friday’s protest. As in the capital, neither police nor military forces were deployed there.
To the north, demonstrators in Alexandria blocked the Corniche Street to protest police brutality. Among the protesters were members of the Revolutionary Youth Coalition, whom the popular committees have been trying to persuade to end the road blockage.
Protesters across the nation have unanimously called for the suspension of all officers accused of killing demonstrators during the January 25 Revolution. There are also calls for the execution of former minister of interior Habib El-Adly who is to have ordered the use of live rounds on protesters during the 18-day uprising.
Furthermore, protesters are stressing the urgency of trying ousted president Hosni Mubarak, his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, and the rest of the former regime.
Among the other key demands are an end to the military trials of civilians, an inclusive political process and the freedom of expression and the media. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took power when Mubarak was ousted, has vowed to bring to justice those found guilty of abuse or corruption, ordering the trial of several old regime figures, including Mubarak.
Many activists, however, have criticised the fast pace of the trials, demanding a credible and thorough process for the sake of justice, not revenge.
Tensions between civilians and the police have escalated since Tuesday night, when altercations between the martyrs’ families and police forces took place in front of the ministry of interior as well as at the Balloon Theatre in Agouza, Cairo. According to a number of accounts, thugs, who remain unidentified until now, were involved in the fray.
During the 18-day uprising, an estimated 1,000 were killed while a further 1,000 remain missing.
Mubarak, his younger son Gamal and former minister of interior Habib El-Adly are believed to be the main instigators of the police force’s deadly tactics towards the protesters.