‘Copters and Cops

Cairo, Egypt

Helicopters have been circling downtown all day today, and when the wind is right you can hear the cacophony of voices down the street on Tahrir Square.

I’m under the weather and haven’t gone out to see for myself, but my German roommate says there’s a bigger crowd than (the new) usual gathered on the square. They’re protesting a hodgepodge of things on behalf of Egyptians and the greater so-called Arab Spring: against military control, in support of the budding Syrian revolution, against Gaddhafi, for the release of political prisoners, death to Israel, support for Palestine, against the Emergency Laws … you name it.

Al-Jazeera English is reporting that the protesters are concentrating on a call for Mubarak and his cronies to be put on trial, and for the military to hand over power to a civilian council.

There’s a rumor that there will be 1,300 officers coming sometime today to march against abuses by the State Security, with al-Jazeera reporting that any military personnel participating in today’s protests will do so under threat of court martial.

Al-Masry al-Youm (Egypt Today), English Edition, is reporting that tens of thousands are marching on what they’ve dubbed the “Friday of Cleansing” and calling for a renewed groundswell of protests until the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces demonstrates a significant commitment to fulfilling the demands of the original January 25 Revolution.

My classmate Yasmine has posted pictures on Facebook from today’s protests that include several banners from unions demanding a new Labor Union Law and more protection of their right to organize (take that, Teaparty!), independence and freedom of expression for the ancient and revered Islamic institution of al-Azhar University, independence of the judiciary, and more.

Some Fridays are like this. Sometimes there’s a unifying cause like Muslim-Coptic unity following events of sectarian violence, or opposition to the constitutional amendments in the next day’s referendum. Other Fridays, without specific events to focus their attention, people come to Tahrir Square on behalf of whatever cause is dear to them, or whatever slogans they think will make a splash. Today is one of the latter, except that the numbers seem to be unprecedented for this sort of a free-for-all Friday rally. As I’ve said before, they sometimes seem drunk with people power in the New Egypt.

As usual, when things get interesting again, I find myself wondering if they’ll turn off the Internet again, but I think Egypt has learned its lesson there. As one protester put it, “When your government shuts down the Internet, shut down your government!”

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