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And So the Revolution Continues…

November 20, 2011

The battle between police and protesters Friday and Saturday answers one very important question: Is the spirit of Tahrir still vibrant enough among the Egyptian people to resist a silent coup by the military? And it looks as if the answer is yes.

Beginning with the breaking of their promises to turn power over to a civilian government, and to lift the emergency law, the military has bit by bit become more entrenched. The assault on the Coptic protesters last month suggested that they would use violence to maintain order as they increasingly sought to co-opt the revolution.

Then, when a timetable for elections was finally released, it delayed presidential elections–the one office that might challenge military power–until 2013.

Finally, last week, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces released a statement that it would choose 80 of the 100 constitutional delegates, and that any new government would not be permitted to have supervision over military budgets–ever.

There have been increasing protests against the gradual settling-in of the military from temporary interim government to indefinite interim government.

The military council has responded by attempting to co-opt the revolution, defining the “real” revolution as the period from Jan. 25th to Feb. 11th. Any other protests (including those taking place currently) were deemed to be endangering the goals of the revolution, of which the generals increasingly attempted to lay claim to be authorized protectors.

While offering much greater media freedom than the Mubarak regime, it drew a sharp red line over criticisms of itself, responding to some of those who cross it with detentions, tortures and military trials from which there is no appeal.

The Muslim Brotherhood took the lead in calling for protests against the generals in Tahrir Square on Friday. Some protesters showed up Thursday night and pitched tents and spent the night.

Friday afternoon the police showed up in force–the hated secret security forces, not military security–and began clearing the square, using batons, tear gas, birdshot and rubber bullets.

Protesters responded by throwing rocks, and sending text messages and tweeting what happened as they were pushed out into the streets surrounding Tahrir, like Mohamed Mahmoud and Talaat Harb. Soon reinforcements began arriving and the protesters pushed back the police and took the square back. The protestors stayed in control of the square through the day and int Sunday.

Additional protests occurred in Alexandria and Suez.

Perhaps the most egregious mistake by SCAF was sending in security police, making them look (revealing themselves as, many of my friends would say) exactly the same as the old regime. Their failure to disband and reform the police has been a sore point with Egyptians for some time.

Watching the protesters battle the police in Tahrir Square both on video and live through 25TV, and reading tweets and messages, it looks like the Jan. 28th protests all over again, with security and protesters clashing, and many of the same faces speaking to media. Many of my Egyptian friends are sorrowful about the violence but also angry and exhilarated.

One posted:

Just come back from tahrir & its not like last few times its BIG this time & ppl there need ALL our support. We r organizing a march from beanos zamalek @ 11.15 to tahrir & pls bring basic pain killers blankets eye drops with u coz a car will move from there with supplies. Pls fwd & be there the revolution needs u!
Whatever happens, these protests have demonstrated once again that the idea of real political reform can bring tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands into the streets, prepared to resist efforts to suppress them. It is a lesson the SCAF will have to consider, and respond to, hopefully with something more creative than accusations of hooliganism in the state media…
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