Tahrir to remain closed until demands are met, say protesters

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By Amir Makar and Lina Marwan

CAIRO: Protesters in Tahrir Square were divided over opening it to traffic as numbers dwindled, with suggestions ranging from moving the sit-in to outside the cabinet headquarters to calling it off altogether.

The sit-in in its current form started on Nov. 19 following a violent crackdown on a much smaller sit-in of people injured during the Jan. 25. Clashes continued with police forces in and near the square until Nov. 24.

But as numbers dwindled in the iconic square, many called for ending the sit-in or at least opening the square for traffic.

“We are not telling the protesters in the sit-in to leave, but closing the square off completely does not serve anyone right now,” said Adam Yassin, a member in the Popular Coalition Party.

None of the “revolutionary parties” including the April 6 Youth Movement or the National Association for Change agreed on keeping the square closed, he said.

Protesters who left or stayed to convince others to leave say they feared a repeat of the Aug. 1 scenario. The sit-in that started on July 8 was cleared by security forces on Aug. 1. Some claimed that those who just days earlier refused to open the square for traffic turned out to be police informants. Pictures of the violent crackdown showed men in civilian clothes put on military or police vests. Protesters said these men were pointing out activists to be arrested.

This week, a group of protesters remained adamant on keeping Tahrir Square closed until the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) responded to their demands that vary from giving the newly appointed prime minister proper mandate to handing over power immediately.

“Every once in a while someone comes and incites violence, heating up arguments to open the square,” said Sweilam Khamis Sweilam, a protester who’d been wounded in the January uprising wounded.

“There are cameras shooting the square 24/7 and they want to make us appear as thugs,” he added.

Sweilam’s concerns were echoed by Nazih Mostafa, another protester wounded in the uprising, who said “They want to open the square by any means possible, by stirring up fights at every gate to create panic.”

One such state of panic occurred late on Monday afternoon, when cars were seen entering the square, but then were asked to turn back and exit the same way after being stopped by protesters.

Mostafa then maintained that among the demands raised by some protesters was that SCAF provide the new Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzoury “with sufficient executive power to carry out the revolution’s goals.”

A group of protesters have camped outside the nearby cabinet headquarters for that purpose. Suggestions were made to move the sit-in there.

Mostafa and his party also called for the immediate prosecution of the perpetrators of acts of violence during the January uprising and the November clashes, in addition to full compensation and medical care for the injured.

Not all the protesters agreed to those demands however, as Mahmoud Sobhi, another protester, asked: “How can we simply forget about all the losses that happened here?”

His position was further solidified by Sweilam, who remained adamant that they will leave only “when Tantawy steps down.”

Meanwhile, local Tahrir residents and shop keepers were growing impatient with the sit-in.

Abou Omar, owner of a luggage store in Tahrir, told Daily News Egypt, “Those people staying are not helping anyone. On the contrary they are causing a lot of problems, and day by day they are turning [the square] to a chaotic place … I wish it would go back to normal.”

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