CAIRO, (AFP) — Thousands of people took to the streets across Egypt on Friday to defend the uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak, directing their anger at the new military rulers over the slow pace of reform.
Flag-waving protesters converged on Cairo’s Tahrir square to push for democratic change and demand that former regime officials accused of abuse be brought to justice.
A large stage was erected in the square — the epicentre of protests that ousted Mubarak in February — ahead of the rally that is to officially start after midday Muslim prayers.
Tents were pitched in the middle of Tahrir, and a large sun shade covered the centre of the square providing much needed relief from the scorching sun, and temperatures of 37 degrees Celsius (about 99 Fahrenheit).
“Our revolution continues,” read one banner on the side of the square.
Holding a large sign, one man complained: “We haven’t felt any change. We removed Mubarak and got a Field Marshall.”
He was referring to Hussein Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces which took power in February and has vowed to pave the way for a democratic system.
But the armed forces, hailed as heroes at the start of the uprising for not siding with Mubarak, have come under fire from local and international rights groups for alleged abuses.
Thousands also turned out in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and hundreds protested in the canal city of Suez.
Among the key demands at Friday’s protests are the end to military trials of civilians, the sacking and trying of police officers accused of killing protesters, and the thorough and transparent trials of former regime officials.
Activists have repeatedly denounced the handling of legal proceedings against security forces who used deadly violence in the uprising that toppled Mubarak, killing 846 civilians.
Pro-democracy activists say police officials responsible for repression before and during the revolt are still showing up for work.
Security forces will watch the rally from a distance to avoid possible clashes, an official said on Thursday, as Egypt’s government warned against plots to sow chaos.
“Police and army officers will be stationed in the side streets, but there will not be any security presence on Tahrir Square,” the security official told AFP.
The interior ministry, in coordination with the army, has decided to not to deploy in the square after a series of violent clashes this week between protesters and security forces, the official said.
Pro-democracy youth groups who called for the protest were in charge of security at the entrances to Tahrir, searching anyone heading into the square and demanding to see two forms of identity.
On Wednesday, the government urged all those taking part in the demonstration to “maintain the peaceful nature of the protest” warning against “plots aiming to incite chaos in order to tarnish the country’s image.”