Egypt: mass protests today


CAIRO – Egypt’s all-powerful army on Monday said the people’s demands were legitimate and vowed not to fire on them as protesters, who are demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, prepared a general strike and million-strong marches. In what is seen as a sop, a new cabinet line-up was announced in which widely hated interior minister Habib al-Adly and the previous finance and culture ministers were axed.
But protesters massed in downtown Cairo vowed they would only be satisfied when Mubarak quits, while the key opposition Muslim Brotherhood called for protests to continue until they bring down his creaking regime. Organisers announced an indefinite general strike and said today (Tuesday) would see a “march of a million” in the capital after a week of revolt in which at least 125 people have been killed. Another march was called in the Mediterranean port Alexandria, after national train services were cancelled in an apparent bid to stymie protests.
Those protests will come as the hated police, whose clashes with protesters last week left more than 125 people dead, have returned to the street. But while the posture the police will take in the face of the strike and marches remains unknown, the army said unequivocally it will not stop them. “To the great people of Egypt, your armed forces, acknowledging the legitimate rights of the people,” stress that “they have not and will not use force against the Egyptian people,” said a statement published by the state news agency, Mena.
Tens of thousands of protesters carpeted Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicentre of demands for an end to the corruption, deprivation and police oppression indelibly associated with Mubarak’s 30-year rule. “We will stay in the square, until the coward leaves,” the crowd chanted. The army has positioned tanks around the area and was checking identity papers but letting protesters in. Civilian popular committee members were also checking papers to make sure no plain-clothes police get in.
“We are looking for police trouble makers. They want to come in and break our unity,” said a popular committee member who asked not to be named. Faced with the prospect of untold numbers trying to converge on the capital, authorities stopped all train traffic with immediate effect on Monday afternoon.