CAIRO: Members of the armed forces and central security police raided Tahrir Square on Monday afternoon, bringing down the tents, forcing protesters to end their open sit-in, and allowing the flow of traffic in the square.
Protesters said that members of the armed forces accompanied by riot police attacked them with batons. The army fired gun shots in the air to intimidate protesters, according to eyewitnesses.
Until time of press, there were few reports of casualties and no reported deaths. People holding cameras or phone cameras were reportedly targeted as random arrests and brief detentions were also reported.
“I was beaten with a baton on my head by a military officer,” electrician Gamal Mohamed told Daily News Egypt in a telephone interview, adding that the protesters ran for their lives when the army attacked.
Activist Lilian Wagdy, who was providing coverage of the raid through her twitter feed, said that a military officer attacked her and tried to confiscate her cell phone, but she refused to give it to him and managed to run away.
“They used electric prods against us and fired gun shots in the air,” Wagdy told DNE over the phone.
“A police informant even tried to detain me, but I got away,” she added.
She said that pedestrians and residents of the area verbally assaulted as she was leaving the square, adding that a woman threw water at her.
“The way the army ended this sit-in was far from peaceful,” she added.
Pedestrians passing by cheered for the riot police and armed forces as they opened the square for traffic.
The army brought down the tents and took control of the square which has been dominated by protesters since July 8.
Eyewitnesses said they saw people being detained by the army, and others slapped around without justification. The number of those detained could not be confirmed by press time.
Some protesters took refugee in Omar Makram Mosque, while others ran away from the square.
Al Jazeera Mubasher aired footage of military officers insulting and swearing at the protesters in the mosque to force them to come out.
A 15-year-old-boy reportedly lost consciousness inside the mosque, according to Al Jazeera Mubasher. The reporter pleaded for an ambulance to be sent to the site which was surrounded by armed forces.
Armored vehicles were seen in the Square as the raid continued.
Earlier in the day, the first day of Ramadan, Tahrir Square was closed, as hundreds of protesters disagreed on whether or not to open it for traffic.
According to Abdallah El-Adawy, member of The Democratic Front of the April 6 Youth Movement, protesters were debating whether to open the roads leading to and out of the square after iftar on Monday.
Shop owners in the downtown area surrounding the square urged protesters to open the roads, saying the closure obstructs their businesses, which usually flourish during the holy month.
Twenty-six groups and political parties announced on Sunday that they have suspended the sit-in in Ramadan, while a few hundred independent protesters and a few political groups decided to remain in the square.
Some of the remaining groups moved their tents to a space in front of the administrative building of El-Mogamma’ to evacuate the center to ease the traffic flow. But many tents remain perched in the center.
A decision to open the square was expected on Sunday evening, but a meeting of the protesters still participating in the sit-in decided otherwise.
“I personally want to open the roads to allow the people to move around easily and go about their businesses,” El-Adawy told Daily News Egypt Monday morning.
However, Farid Allam, founder of the coalition for the Egyptian Revolutionary Council, strongly disagreed, saying that the protesters would continue closing off Tahrir Square until their demands are met.
Allam went as far as labeling anyone who disagreed with closing the square a “traitor and a spy”.
“We are doing this for the people of Egypt,” Allam said. “This is the only way our demands will be met.”
“We will be buried here before we open the square,” he added.
The coalition called for the establishment of an interim government comprising protesters from Tahrir Square to execute the people’s demands, in addition to prosecuting those responsible for killing protesters and guaranteeing the rights of the martyrs’ families.
The protesters’ demands include ending the military prosecution of civilians, sacking the Prosecutor General, cleansing the interior ministry and setting a minimum wage of LE 1,200 as well as a reasonable maximum wage.
Some groups tied their stay in Tahrir with the decision of the families of the martyrs, who reportedly get pressured and harassed by police to drop their cases or change their testimonies. One of the protesters said Sunday afternoon that the families would suspend the sit-in if all officers implicated in killing protesters were detained pending the trials.
For others, it was the Mubarak trial set for Wednesday.
"There were differences between members of [The Democratic Front of the April 6 Youth Movement] last night which ended with the majority voting on continuing the sit-in until Aug. 3 to guarantee that Mubarak would appear in court," Mo’men Mohamed, member of the group’s media center, told DNE.
"We also want the military council to set a timeline for achieving the rest of our demands before we decide to leave," he added.
The Front is a splinter group from the April 6 Youth Movement — which had suspended its sit-in — and includes members who left in the wake of internal differences with the April 6’s General Coordinator Ahmed Maher.–Additional reporting by Farah Saafan.
Cars drive around Tahrir Square after armed forces and riot police removed tents of several dozen protesters who refused to leave the area on Aug. 1. (AFP Photo/Mohamed Hossam)