By Tamara Wing
On the eve of Egypt’s seventh day of demonstrations calling for President Hosni Mubarak to resign from power, the country is bracing for its next round of protests. Following Friday’s “Day of Rage” which saw hundreds of thousands of protesters in Egypt’s major cities, word spread that Tuesday, February 1, was to be the largest day of protests Egypt had seen in decades. Now hours before daybreak, numbers are expected to be as high as one million in Cairo and Alexandria alone.
A curfew was declared on Friday from 6 p.m. – 7 a.m.; by Monday it had been extended to 3 p.m. – 7 a.m. The curfew is widely ignored by both civilians and the military as protesters have maintained a constant presence in the streets since demonstrations began. Saturday’s daytime protests were noticeably smaller than Wednesday’s or Friday’s. They were led primarily by women following the noon prayers and were a tribute to the dead (well over 100). Many of the Egyptian men used Saturday to rest after standing guard in their neighborhoods against looters or vandals at night; some have guns but most are armed with knives or sticks. Since the first day of protests, police have stopped patrolling neighborhoods, leaving residents to defend themselves to their best abilities.
The Egyptian military, deployed onto the streets on Friday to protect national treasures and government buildings, has been responsive and helpful to local residents, including protesters. Soldiers are publicly advising residents to establish neighborhood watch committees and are sharing basic defense tactics such as minimum numbers of men on patrol or how to set up a barrier. On Monday, the army put forth an official statement warning that looting and violence will not be tolerated during Tuesday’s day of protests, but also that “the armed forces will not resort to use of force against our great people. Your armed forces, who are aware of the legitimacy of your demands . . . affirm that freedom of expression through peaceful means is guaranteed to everybody.”
As this article goes to submission, roughly 250,000 Egyptians are gathered at Cairo’s Tahrir square, many vowing that they will not leave the square until President Mubarak and his cabinet members step down. The army also has a strong visible presence with tanks nearby and soldiers checking IDs.
Updates to come.