Cairo: Egyptian soldiers formed lines and moved in around protesters still in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Sunday as traffic started flowing through the square again for the first time in more than two weeks, Reuters witnesses said.
Protesters chanted “Peacefully, peacefully” as the soldiers moved in, and a few resisted the line of troops. There was some pushing and shoving. Some officers talked to protesters.
The army has said it respects the demands of protesters, whose mass action on the streets drove Hosni Mubarak from power. But the military has also called for protesters to return home so that normal life resumes.
Protests erupted on 25 Jan. and traffic stopped flowing through Tahrir after 28 Jan., which was one of the first mass protests nationwide. Protesters have been in the square continuously, many camping, since then.
“In the square, in the square, we demands our rights in the square,” some chanted as soldiers corralled the crowd.
Despite toppling Mubarak, the key demand of protesters, many demonstrators had said they planned to stay in the square to hold to account the army council now in charge.
Protester demands include abolishing emergency law that has been used to stifle dissent, the release of all political prisoners, and free and fair elections.
“The army is the backbone of Egypt. Their solution is not to remove us from the square. They must respond to our demands,” said a protester over loudspeakers.
Some protesters said leaders of the protest movement were taken by soldiers. Protesters have suggested more than 30 may have been detained and taken to an area around the Egyptian Museum, next to the square.
The army had no immediate comment.
The army was ordered onto the streets on 28 Jan. after police fought street battles to try to contain protests but lost control. The army has taken a largely neutral role, generally standing back. Some people have been detained, often briefly.
“There is no enmity between the people and armed forces ... We ask you not to attack our sons. This is not the (behaviour) of the armed forces. This is a peaceful protest,” a protester also said on loudspeakers.
“We demand from armed forces to release all sons that have been arrested while in Tahrir,” the protester said.