Egypt protesters defy army after deadly crackdown

April 11, 2011 - 0:0

CAIRO (AFP) – More than 1,000 Egyptian protested in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Sunday after an overnight sit-in demonstration when the army backed down on a threat to disperse them.

The protesters, who blocked the square with a charred army truck, barbed wire and beams, chanted against military chief Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who has been in charge since president Hosni Mubarak's ouster in February.
“The people demand the toppling of the field marshal,” they chanted, after spending a nervous night waiting for the army to carry out its warning that it would enforce a three-hour pre-dawn curfew.
Soldiers, backed by riot police, had dispersed an overnight protest in the iconic square before dawn on Saturday, with one protester shot dead.
The military later warned it would clear out remaining protesters, keeping the demonstrators on edge throughout the night as the countdown began for the curfew.
Groups of young men whistled and banged at the barricades when they thought the military, which remained out of sight, was approaching, prompting others to run to them with sticks.
As the curfew neared its end, some protesters began to chant jokingly: “Hit us, hit us, you are taking your time and we're bored.”
Their numbers waxed and waned throughout morning, with groups of protesters locked in arguments with passers-by who wanted them to leave the square, which remained closed to traffic.
By the afternoon there were more than a 1,000 of them. Groups of protesters would rush to the barricades when their sentries yelled that “thugs” were sighted. There no noticeable military or police presence.
The protesters faced mounting criticism from other groups that took part in the revolt that toppled Mubarak.
The Muslim Brotherhood, the best organized opposition movement, had from the start described protesters against the military as feckless “zealots.”
“The Muslim Brotherhood condemns any attempt to weaken (the military's relationship with the people), and especially attempts to cause any split between the military and the people or to pit them against each other,” it said.
“It is apparent that there are those who are striving to accomplish that from the remnants of the old regime, and some zealots who do not consider consequences,” it said.
Photo: An Egyptian protester shows spent bullets and a blood-stained sheet at Tahrir Square in Cairo on April 9, 2011 following clashes. (AFP photo)