CAIRO: Thousands of protesters joined marches around Cairo heading to Tahrir Square on Friday, calling on the military council to immediately hand over power to a civilian authority.
As the day wore on, hundreds marched in groups to the state TV building Maspero, and by evening, activists said numbers swelled into the thousands. Protesters chanted “liars, liars” outside the building, which houses a media institution much derided by many and long criticized for coverage slanted towards the ruling powers.
Others feared that this would lead to clashes between protesters and military forces around the heavily guarded building.
Earlier in the day, marches, which garnered wide support on Jan. 25, were favored by many of the demonstrators who deemed them more effective that spending the day in Tahrir Square since they aim to attract onlookers to join. Some of the marches took new routes in order to reach out to more citizens in different neighborhoods.
Though taking place in different places, the chants were united in calling for an end to military rule and justice for the martyrs.
Mohamed Shoukry, 24, told Daily News Egypt, “We cannot write the constitution while the supreme military council is in power, because they will try to guarantee special treatment for themselves and independence from any kind of scrutiny.”
The protests were dubbed “Friday of Dignity,” commemorating last year’s “Friday of Anger,” which fell on Jan. 28 and witnessed the bloodiest confrontation with police forces during the early days of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak. Police forces later withdrew from the streets, leaving a security vacuum.
Protesters gathered and marched to Tahrir from districts across the capital, including Isteqama Mosque in Giza, Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque in Mohandiseen, Dawaran Shoubra, Higaz Square in Heliopolis, and Rabaa Al-Adaweya Mosque in Nasr City.
Another small group of protesters marched towards the Ministry of Defense but were chased away by who they described as supporters of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
Most of the protesters refused the idea of marching to the defense ministry, saying it was too risky, and "too soon to take such a step."
Demonstrators called on people watching the marches from their balconies to join as some of them waved the Egyptian flag and cheered the protesters on.
Several children in the march held posters reading "Down with military rule" as many families marched towards Tahrir Square. The families weren’t worried about any violence or clashes breaking out.
"The Egyptian people are known for their peacefulness and respect, police forces used to cause the violence to serve the regime," Mohamed Mostafa, 76, said while carrying his two-year-old grandson Mostafa.
Although calls for SCAF to step down dominated the chants, some of the protesters said they didn’t object to SCAF staying until June, as long as ousted president Hosni Mubarak and his aides were executed.
"Mubarak is a murderer who killed the revolutionaries and gagged the people, spreading injustice and oppression," Mostafa said.
Mubarak, former interior minister Habib El-Adly and six of his aides are being tried for complicity in the killing of hundreds of protesters, while Mubarak’s sons Alaa and Gamal, along with their father, are facing corruption charges in the same trial.
However, others believed that SCAF cannot be trusted to hand over power.
"Tell us who chose you [as a ruler] … you are a mob chosen by Mubarak," chanted protesters addressing the ruling council.
Many of the protesters wore masks of Sheikh Emad Effat of Al-Azhar who died during the Cabinet clashes last December, and Khaled Saeid, the victim of police brutality who sparked the revolution. Friday also marked Saied’s birthday.
"This is a bid to remind the people of our martyrs and honor them," said Shaza Eleiwa, 32, who wore a mask of Effat.
Many of the protesters agreed on holding an open sit-in in Tahrir Square until their demands are met. Others said that the daily mass protests and marches are enough.
"We have to focus on working and building the country…we can also have mass protests but without paralyzing the state," said Adam Azazy, 27.
Hanaa El-Naby a member of April 6 Youth Movement, said the youth movements and political powers would convene at 8 pm to decide whether or not to hold an open sit-in.
University professor Laila Soueif said it depends on the number of protesters.
"If the number of protesters is large enough to close off the streets in Tahrir or Maspero and hold a sit-in, then they should do just that," Soueif told DNE.
Soueif said SCAF should hand over power to the head of the People’s Assembly, Saad El-Katatny.
Others demanded that SCAF immediately open the door for registration for the presidential candidates and annul the Shoura Council elections, slated for Sunday.
They said that the Shoura elections (Upper house) wasted the country’s time and resources for an honorary council that had no real effect.
“I came from Mansoura to participate in today’s march. We cannot celebrate the revolution’s anniversary while our martyrs are not yet avenged and their killers are not yet punished,” Ayman El-Gohary, a member of the Revolution Continues Coalition who joined the Moustafa Mahmoud march told DNE.
Many chanted fiercely, “this is a revolution, not a celebration.”
“SCAF is trying to create disorder and confusion among the protesters,” said El-Gohary, who joined the march to demand an immediate transfer of power to the elected parliament or an elected presidential committee and the trial of those responsible for the martyrs’ death.
“If we wait for SCAF to handover power after six months, they would have already laid down a constitution by then that serves their interests and hides their mistakes and violations,” he said. “Although I’m against the ideologies of the Muslim Brotherhood, I prefer to have the parliament rule the country than SCAF.”
“After the ouster of Mubarak, SCAF promised to handover power in six months and then modified this date without explaining the reason. I do not trust them anymore and they failed to rule the country,” Shady Galal, an architect, told DNE.
“A president must be elected prior to the constitution. I don’t only demand the ouster of the SCAF but also their trial,” he said.
Thousands of protesters rallied in Tahrir Square where a festive mood dominated the square save for a few scuffles between protesters.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party had set up a stage on Jan. 25.
In the evening, some protesters chanted against them accusing them of selling out, with some hurling water bottles at the stage, according to eyewitnesses. The FJP then promised to take the word “celebration” off the banner than hung off the stage.
Protesters denounced calls to celebrate the Jan. 25 uprising until all the revolution’s demands were met. –Additional reporting by Ahmed Hazem
Egyptian protesters attend a rally in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on January 27. (AFP Photo/Khaled Desouki)