CAIRO: Thousands of protesters rallied in Tahrir Square on Friday dubbed "Reclaiming the Revolution," calling for the ruling army council to hand over power to a civilian rule as soon as possible.
"The people want to topple the Field Marshal," protesters chanted. "Down with the military rule."
Political powers dominated the square setting up banners and stages, unlike previous Friday protests where political parties were drowned out by ordinary Egyptians with no particular political affiliations.
"If the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) had enough credibility and achieved our demands, we wouldn't have come to Tahrir again," Abdel Rahim Mahmoud, secretary of the cultural committee of Al-Wasat Party told Daily News Egypt.
Award-wining actor Sean Pean was seen briefly touring the square, holding the Egyptian flag before Friday prayers.
Mohamed Abdel Quddous, head of the freedoms committee at the Journalists' Syndicate described the turnout in the iconic square as a disappointment.
"The low turnout will only encourage the military council to go further in making unilateral decisions," Abdel Quddous told DNE.
"The military council's policy has been ‘you talk as much as you want and I will do what I want’," he said.
Abdel Quddous pointed out that he was personally participating in the protests because he believed that freedom of press was under fire.
"Sout Al-Umma newspaper was raided by security forces last week and 3,000 copies were seized and destroyed," he said. "It's like the revolution never happened."
Five stages were set up around the square, including one belonging to the campaign supporting presidential hopeful Hazem Abou Ismail, one representing the Freedom and Justice Movement, one representing a number of youth coalitions and movements including Egypt's future movement and the Youth Union of Upper Egypt. The last one near the American University in Cairo represented independent protesters.
Supporters of Abou Ismail said that he voiced the same demands as the protesters and supported the revolution till the end.
"Abou Ismail wants this country to be ruled by one of the Egyptian people, not the military," Mostafa Kamal, member of Abou Ismail's campaign said.
He added that Abou Ismail would visit the square later in the day.
Marches were organized from Giza, Shoubra and Mostafa Mahmoud square in Mohandiseen and poured into Tahrir Square.
The protesters called for amending the People’s Assembly and Shoura Council laws, a specific timeline for SCAF to hand over power to civilians, annulling the emergency law, putting an end to military trials and activating the treachery act.
Political analyst and head of the Free Egypt Party, Amr Hamzawy, spoke from a stage set up by Al-Wasat Party, which splintered from the Muslim Brotherhood 15 years ago, reiterating protesters’ demands and expressing the unity of all political powers.
"Islamists, liberals and leftists are all united in our demands for bread, freedom and social justice," he told the crowd.
"Let's not make today about whether the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic groups participated in today's protest," he added.
The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and Sufi orders announced Thursday that they will not join the Friday protests having given SCAF a Sunday night deadline to respond to their demands.
However other protesters didn't share the same sentiment as Hamzawy.
"The Brotherhood made the same demands and yet they didn't participate in today’s protests," Amr Alaa, member of Al-Wasat Party said. "They should join us and express their demands."
The protesters all voiced the same sentiment saying that they felt "the revolution was being stolen from them.”
"The only thing this revolution has achieved is taking [ousted president] Hosni Mubarak's picture down from government institutions," Tarek Ahmed, 45, said.
"But the same ideology and policy of the fallen regime remains," he added.
Protesters slammed the emergency law, saying that civilian laws against thugs are sufficient but should be implemented by the interior ministry.
"The problem with the interior ministry is that they want to enforce their authority on 80 million honorable Egyptians, instead of thugs," Ahmed said.
Marches toured the iconic square with banners drawing attention to different causes including, the campaign against military trials. Advocates held pictures of civilian detainees in military prisons and chanted, "Get our children out of prison."
"We want all the people who were detained through military trials, especially those detained following the raid on the Israeli embassy [on Sept.9] to be released," Kamal Khalil, spokesman of the Democratic Labor Party, said.
Around 12,000 civilians have been sentenced to prison terms in military courts since SCAF took over power following the ouster of Mubarak on Feb. 11.
The Labor Party also toured the square with a number of workers calling for the renationalization of privatized Egyptian companies.
"Our demand remains the same…social justice," chanted the protesters.
"We also want workers to be part of the management of companies to give voice to the workers and guarantee their rights," Haitham Mohamadein, member of the party said.
Political powers said they would leave the square by 7 pm and did not call for an open sit-in.
Suez and Alexandria
Thousands of protesters gathered in Suez’s El-Arbaein Square, and Alexandria’s Al-Qaed Ibrahim Square, to participate in Friday’s “Reclaiming the Revolution” protests.
The protesters gathered to denounce the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces' (SCAF) recent changes to the law regulating parliamentary elections, and to demand an end to the emergency law and the transfer power to a civilian authority.
According to eye witnesses in Suez no security forces were deployed in the square but there was a heavy security presence at all army establishments.
"We have toppled the military rule already and we will not follow their command in our city,” said Medhat Eissa, spokesman for the Suez Revolution Youth Coalition.
“Anyone using emergency law against us is violating our freedom and we will not accept it,” said protester Ashraf Mohsen, who is also a member of the coalition.
The military police distributed flyers in Suez calling on the people to protect their property from elements affiliated with foreign entities, referring to them as thugs.
The flyers also said that the military has worked hard to provide job opportunities and improve living conditions in Suez ever since it took control.
The situation in Suez was tense according to activists, who said the protesters will decide whether the protest will turn into a sit-in.
Eissa denied media reports that a group of thugs attacked protesters in Al-Arbaein Square, claiming that it is a tactic by the army to scare protesters.
“It happened before,” Eissa said.
Activists in Suez said that Field Marshal Hussein Tantawy does not have any legitimacy in Suez, claiming that they might march to the military intelligence headquarters later in the day.
Meanwhile in Alexandria, sources told DNE that five marches kicked off from different locations in the city and merged in the square.
One of the marches, coming from Asfara area, was briefly dispersed when it was attacked by six thugs who allegedly fired live bullets.
"But everything is fine now, they were all able to march to our meeting point again," said Ahmed Mekawy, an activists in Alexandria.
Youth Wafd Party member Haitham Nassar claimed the thugs were paid to attack the people.
He explained that in Asfara, a number of pro-military posters were plastered on the walls, which he believes was not done by Asafra residents.