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Activists debate Tahrir sit-in, alternatives on 'Friday of Anger' - Daily News Egypt

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Activists debate Tahrir sit-in, alternatives on ‘Friday of Anger’

CAIRO: Activists and youth movements are debating holding an open sit-in in Tahrir Square on the "Friday of Anger" and other alternative measures for escalation, in a bid to pressure the military council to hand over power to a civilian authority. Activist and blogger Mahmoud Salem, also known as Sandmonkey, downplayed the effect an open …

CAIRO: Activists and youth movements are debating holding an open sit-in in Tahrir Square on the "Friday of Anger" and other alternative measures for escalation, in a bid to pressure the military council to hand over power to a civilian authority.

Activist and blogger Mahmoud Salem, also known as Sandmonkey, downplayed the effect an open sit-in would have now, in comparison to Mubarak’s last days in power where occupying a central square like Tahrir was a massive achievement.

"The military’s intelligence and informants know how to disperse sit-ins in Tahrir very well, so I wouldn’t recommend that," he said.

Mohamed Abbas, member of the Revolutionary Youth Coalition and Al-Tayar Al-Masry Party, agreed that the protesters should not bank on an open sit-in in Tahrir.

"There are many methods to escalate protests including civil disobedience until our demands are met," he said.

The youth movements and activists still haven’t decided on whether they would hold an open-sit until the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) hands over power.

Military forces have violently cracked down on several sit-ins in Tahrir Square since they were handed power on Feb. 11.

"I’m against the idea of centralization, we should mobilize people to hold sit-ins all around Cairo’s squares not just Tahrir," Salem said.

More than 10 marches poured into Tahrir Square Wednesday to commemorate the first anniversary of the Jan. 25 uprising, with tens of thousands of protesters calling on the military rulers to hand over power to a civilian authority.

The marches were deemed a success, with the participation of an unprecedented number of marches since the beginning of the revolt.

"Marches are dynamic and they create an interaction between the protesters and the passersby and encourage them to join in and acknowledge the demonstrators’ demands," activist and blogger Lilian Wagdy said.

She explained that people watching the news on television don’t recognize the people in Tahrir Square. However seeing the marches coming out of their neighborhoods forces them to relate and consider joining, she said.

Mahmoud Afify, spokesperson of the April 6 Youth Movement, said that the marches on Friday will be similar to those held on Wednesday.

The Kazeboon campaign will also hold screenings of SCAF’s violations around Cairo.

"When we have large numbers of people flooding the streets and heading towards Tahrir … that’s a scene that would rattle SCAF," Abbas said.

The option of holding an open sit-in at the State TV building Maspero was also floated as a form of escalation, however, Abbas and Salem agreed it wouldn’t achieve much.

"Like the military forces know how to disperse Tahrir sit-ins, they also know how to disperse Maspero sit-ins," Abbas said.

In October, SCAF cracked down on a mostly Coptic march at Maspero, leaving 27 people dead.

All movements and activists rejected the idea of reaching a compromise with SCAF.

"This is a revolution and our bar of demands is supposed to be high, otherwise we would’ve never toppled Mubarak," Wagdy said.

Wagdy and Salem favored opening the door for registration for presidential candidates immediately instead of waiting until April, as per the latest timeline set by SCAF.

On Wednesday, SCAF reiterated that it would hand over power to an elected president by the end of June 2012.

On the other hand, Abbas and Afify were leaning towards either electing a president by June or handing over power to the head of parliament, Saad El-Katatny, a renowned leader of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP).

"I boycotted these elections which were marred by forgery and violations. … [El-Katatny] doesn’t represent me," Wagdy said.

Afify said that the elections represent the people’s will and El-Katatny would be chosen for his position as the speaker of parliament. He would handle the transitional period for 60 days until presidential elections are held.

Salem also slammed the label “Friday of Anger," asking "anger against what?"

Last year, on Jan. 28, protests across Egypt condemned police brutality. Protesters were set on defying the police forces to reach the heavily guarded Tahrir Square.

The protesters faced bullets, pellets, excessive tear gas and water canons to take over the square.

Now a year after the revolution, the presence of security forces is minimal on the streets even when it comes to fighting crime. Friday protests in Tahrir Square have usually gone untouched by the military or police forces, with the responsibility of securing the square left to youth movements.

"There needs to be a specific aim for the Friday protests … where will all the marches head to and what do they seek to achieve?" Salem asked.

However, Wagdy, said she was personally angry that Mubarak and his aides are yet to be executed for killing hundreds of peaceful protesters.

"I’m still not sure how protests will escalate on Friday, but I know I’m angry that these murderers went unpunished," she told DNE.

Mubarak, former interior minister Habib El-Adly and six of his aides are being tried for complicity in the killing of hundreds protesters, while Mubarak’s sons Alaa and Gamal, along with their father, are facing corruption charges in the same trial.

Although a fact finding mission said 846 were killed during the 18-day uprising, Mubarak is facing charges for the killing of 225 who were killed in public squares not in front of police stations.

On their part, several political powers including Al-Wafd, the Free Egyptians parties remain undecided on whether to participate in the Friday protests.

The FJP have reiterated that they were against the idea of SCAF handing over power immediately, and supported the timeline proposed by the military council, despite objections from legal and political experts who say the new timeline contradicts the one chosen by Egyptians in the March referendum.

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