CAIRO — Thousands of Egyptians turned out in the capital’s Tahrir Square on Friday to “reclaim the revolution,” about nine months after the winter uprising that ousted an autocrat and brought the country’s military leadership to power.
Protesters from more than 20 political blocs representing Islamists, liberals, socialists and others participated in the call for an end to Egypt’s emergency law, a true purge of the remnants of former president Hosni Mubarak’s government, amendments to a recently passed electoral law and, in some cases, an immediate end to military rule.
Vendors sold red, black and white revolutionary trinkets as protesters acknowledged that the power of the street appeared to be waning. An estimated 20,000 people were in the square, the scene of demonstrations attended by hundreds of thousands during the 18-day revolt in January and February.
The protest, however, was the largest since the military forcibly ended a sit-in in August, and some said they planned to stay in the square until they saw change. Hundreds were still there late Friday.
“The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is stealing our revolution, and we need to take it back,” said Sana Maher, 22, as she protested the emergency law that allows the military to continue to arrest people in the name of stability. “I don’t have a lot of hope that this will work, but I need to do something, so I came here.”
The military council, which acts as both parliament and president, has been criticized for extending the transitional period before elections, being slow to make decisions and acting harshly when it does.
The council expanded the scope of the emergency law this month, rebuffing a key demand of the protesters who took to the streets last winter pressing for, among other things, the law’s repeal. This week, the council also set Nov. 28 as the start of the first stage of parliamentary elections.
But nearly 100 political parties condemned the allocation under the new law of a third of parliament’s 498 seats to independents, saying the measure was designed to return members of Mubarak’s party to power. The Democratic Coalition, which includes the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, threatened to boycott the elections if it was not removed. The coalition did not participate in Friday’s protests.
In Tahrir Square, Abdullah Mahmoud, 26, a member of the centrist al-Wasat party and the April 6 youth movement, surveyed the crowd. Nearby, followers of the conservative Salafist form of Islam exhorted, “Don’t be afraid,” and liberals announced from another stage that “the people and the people are one hand,” a variation on the once-popular “the people and the military are one hand.”
“It’s supposed to be much bigger than this,” Mahmoud said of the crowd. “The numbers are not like they used to be, and this is not the message we want to send” to the council.
On Thursday, the military warned in a statement on its Facebook page that “any transgression against the armed forces or its facilities is a threat to Egyptian national security” and that “perpetrators will be punished.”
Special correspondents Muhammad Mansour and Ingy Hassieb contributed to this report.