By Mai Shams El-Din and Amira Salah-Ahmed
CAIRO: Protesters remained camped out in Tahrir Square through the early hours of Sunday, in defiance of curfew and a violent crackdown by military police the previous night.
By Saturday afternoon, more than a thousand protesters were back in Tahrir Square after being forcefully dispersed by military police in the early hours of that day following mass protests on what was dubbed “Friday of Cleansing.”
Protesters reiterated their demands to sack Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and the Cabinet, the release of political detainees, dismantling the State Security apparatus and annulling the emergency law.
Protesters chanted slogans condemning the continuation of Shafiq’s government, pressuring the army to push for more reforms.
Scattered in the square, protesters chanted: “Freedom where are you, Shafik is standing between me and you,” and “The people want to overthrow the government.”
Protesters also warned of possible techniques of the “counter revolution” by state security forces and members of the National Democratic Party, which they claim are aiming to spread distrust between the army and the people and breaking their unity.
By midday, the crowd had thinned out to a few hundred and was less cohesive than normally seen in the square, but still carried on reiterating demands to remove the government, and calling on others to join the protest. One group chanted: “Why have you quieted down, did you get all your rights?”
A group of Coptic protesters formed a circle around a large Egyptian flag, holding hands and praying.
Some of the protesters that were run off by military police in the early hours of Saturday were back in the square setting up camp.
Sabri Ismail from Beheira told Daily News Egypt that he’d arrived in Cairo Friday morning to take part in protests, and decided to camp out in Tahrir until demands are met.
He was part of the group of protesters who were chased away by army soldiers and military police using cattle prods, while others were beaten and arrested. Similar clashes took place in front of the parliament building.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces issued an apology on its Facebook page Saturday morning, saying the clashes were “unintentional.” In a second statement, the council said it ordered the release of all protesters arrested the night before.
The council “did not and will not issue orders to assault the [youth],” the statement read.
Many, however, were unappeased by the statement.
Ismail told DNE that his own tent was kicked in and he was chased down Talaat Harb Street. He came back to Tahrir Saturday morning and was seen setting up his tent and making signs to hang on it.
“Tonight I’m ready to die here. What they did to us yesterday is unacceptable. We were not prepared for this kind of treatment, but today we are ready to face them,” he said, adding his demand that Shafiq, as part of ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s era, must go.
Another man from Beheira accompanying Ismail said: “Tell Electricity Minister Hassan Younes to turn on the lights.” The lights were off in Tahrir until past midnight, but were eventually turned on.
By midnight, the crowed in the square had swelled to more than a thousand. Though warned of the curfew, many remained camped out overnight, this time without a confrontation with the military.