Egyptian protesters flock to Tahrir Square with a renewed sense of
urgency. Though happy that Mubarak got life in prison, they are outraged
that top police officials were acquitted.
CAIRO — Egyptians marched toward their hallowed ground of triumph and
despair. Banners flapped, anger swelled, and Tahrir Square, which for
months had been relatively quiet, erupted Saturday in unifying protest.
The life sentence handed to deposed President Hosni Mubarak
for his complicity in the killing of more than 800 protesters during
last year's uprising awakened a sense of urgency to rescue a revolution
that has felt adrift. While most Egyptians were happy about Mubarak's
fate, they were outraged that six of his top police officials were
acquitted of murder charges.
The protesters saw the
dismissals as another sign that the nation's ruling Supreme Council of
the Armed Forces, or SCAF, whose generals are close to Mubarak, was
maneuvering to protect the remnants of his toppled state. Tahrir Square
filled with chants, posters of victims killed during the uprising and
members of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose presidential candidate, Mohamed
Morsi, sought to capitalize on the anger.
"All of us, my brothers, must realize in this period that the
continuation of the revolution and the revolutionaries' staying put in
their positions in the square are the only guarantees to achieve our
goals," Morsi said at a news conference before joining the crowd in
Morsi is running against Ahmed Shafik, a Mubarak loyalist, in a June
16-17 runoff election that will decide whether Egypt returns to the
law-and-order secularism of the old guard or turns toward an emerging
political Islam that already controls the parliament. Neither man
embodies the spirit of the uprising that had gripped Tahrir Square and
led to Mubarak's ouster.
In fact, little these days has inspired the Egyptian soul.
That dilemma — a bitter disappointment for secular activists who have
largely been swept from the country's political scenario — was palpable
in the square after the verdict. But the rulings from Mubarak's trial
also suggested that many fear that the military will remain a hidden
force after transferring power to a civilian government by July.
"This was a previously written scenario by SCAF. Everything we have seen
over the last year and half is part of this scenario, including today's
verdict," said Mohamed Yasser, a public employee. "It is a very
contradictory verdict. How come the big heads get indicted while the
lower officials, who fulfilled the orders on the ground, get acquitted?"
That was what people were talking about in the square. But they also
discussed — sometimes with bemused smiles — enduring more than a year of
uncertainty, as if the revolution, instead of delivering its promises
and lofty ideals, had shoved them into a strange, inescapable dimension.
Yet being together again as the moon rose and the crowd thickened, there was a sense of rekindling old fires.
Some called for a retrial of Mubarak and his sons, Alaa and Gamal,
acquitted in the same court case of financial corruption charges. Other
protesters demanded that SCAF step down immediately. Similar chants rose
from demonstrations in Alexandria and other cities.
"This is the last chance for all Egyptians to come together once again
and save their revolution. What we do now will determine how SCAF deals
with the whole nation for years to come," said Samir Ghanoum, a grocer.
"If we get together, all our demands will be met."
Political parties plotted and youth groups — for a while anyway — were
invigorated. The army and the police stayed away; it was not their
It was unlikely that the many camps and differing ideologies that
bloomed from last year's uprising would find the galvanizing momentum to
change the course of things. But it was good again to imagine.
"This verdict can be a blessing in disguise because it is the last straw
that will bring everybody back to the square," said Tarek Seddick, a
law student. "It will bring us back together as one hand. The revolution
took a wrong U-turn once politicians and activists started looking at
their own personal interests and opinions.
"But what I see today is that we're all together regardless of anyone's
ideology, and this sort of unity is the only efficient pressure on
By late Saturday night, a few more tents had risen in the square.
*Photo courtesy of Fredrik Persson, Associated Press / June 2, 2012