Update: Tahrir protesters try again to tear down Qasr al-Aini wall

Update: Tahrir protesters try again to tear down Qasr al-Aini wall

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Fri, 01/02/2013 - 18:23

Marches from Sayeda Zeinab and Manial arrived in Tahrir Square early Friday evening to join the "Friday of Salvation" demonstration, greeted with applause from protesters already in the square. They chanted slogans against President Mohamed Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Dozens of protesters climbed the concrete wall blocking the Tahrir entrance to Qasr al-Aini Street, wielding tools to break it down and make way for demonstrators to reach the Shura Council and stage a sit-in there until the Islamist-dominated council is dissolved.

The security forces retreated behind the wall to avoid clashing with protesters.

Protesters have intermittently attempted to tear down the Qasr al-Aini wall since last week, leading to ongoing clashes.

Members of the Revolutionary Socialists distributed a statement to demonstrators in the square, which held the Muslim Brotherhood responsible for the violence and bloodshed that has swept the nation since protests marking the second anniversary of the revolution last Friday.

Some Black Bloc protesters appeared in the square, refusing to talk to the media except to assert that they were peaceful and not terrorists, as the Brotherhood has claimed.

The Black Bloc is a previously unknown group of protesters who emerged during demonstrations marking the second anniversary of the revolution, and who wear black masks and outfits. The prosecution has ordered the arrest of anyone in Black Bloc gear.

Earlier in the evening, dozens of protesters were injured by birdshot in Simon Bolivar Square and received medical treatment in nearby ambulances, reported state-run newspaper Al-Ahram.

Ahram reported that clashes broke out between protesters and Central Security Forces on the Corniche near the US Embassy, with both sides hurling stones. The paper claimed that "masked men" and "rioters" then began throwing Molotov cocktails at the CSF troops, who responded by shooting teargas and birdshot.

Nearby, the number of protesters in Tahrir Square continued to swell as marches from across the city arrived to participate in the mass demonstration.

A march of hundreds left from Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque in Mohandiseen earlier Friday afternoon, headed up by Popular Current leader Hamdeen Sabbahi. Protesters demanded a new Constitution and an end to the Brotherhood domination of state institutions. They chanted, "The people want to overthrow the regime." Women raised red cards as symbolic red flags throwing President Mohamed Morsy out of power.

Protesters began streaming into Tahrir just before Friday prayers to prepare for the mass demonstration.

They gathered at a stage set up in front of the Mugamma, near Mohamed Mahmoud Street, where the Friday sermon was being broadcast. The speaker on the stage asked protesters to clean up the surrounding area, and spread plastic sheets to protect against the rain, which delayed the gathering on Friday morning.

By 10 am, no preparations for the protests were in place due to the rain. The huge banners that are typically hung up in the square in the morning were notably absent; nor were there any marches around the square to inspire bystanders to join.

Calm prevailed in the square and surrounding areas in the early morning following sporadic clashes that took place on Thursday in Simon Bolivar Square and on the Qasr al-Nil Bridge, near the Semiramis Hotel.

Dozens were reportedly injured on both sides, but doctors from the Qasr al-Dobara Church field hospital said this was the fewest number of injuries they had seen all week. After the clashes, protesters came back from the Qasr al-Nil Bridge to stay overnight in Tahrir and take part in today's demonstration.

Members of popular committees blocked all entrances leading to Tahrir after opening some of them on Thursday. Metal barriers and barbed wire were placed at the entrances from Abdel Moneim Riyad Square, Qasr al-Nil Bridge, Omar Makram Mosque, Mohamed Mahmoud Street and Qasr al-Nil Street.

Police presence increased in the surrounding areas. Three armored vehicles were stationed in Simon Bolivar Square, while two others were placed around the Semiramis and Shepherd hotels. One more vehicle was seen on the Qasr al-Nil Bridge.

Several political movements and parties called for today's mass demonstration, criticizing the current government and calling for the revolution's demands to be achieved.

Protesters are calling for the dismissal of Prime Minister Hesham Qandil's Cabinet, and the formation of a national salvation government in its place. They also demand the formation of a committee to amend disputed articles in the Constitution, the dismissal of the prosecutor general and the formation of a judicial committee to investigate the killing and injuring of protesters during the last week of violent clashes with police.

Other demands include holding officials accountable for excessive force used against protesters in recent events, legalizing the status of the Muslim Brotherhood and canceling the state of emergency Morsy imposed on Suez, Ismailia and Port Said last week.

Protesters have battled with security forces over the past week in the course of nationwide demonstrations against Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood that began on 25 January. At least 53 have been killed and nearly 2,000 injured across the country. .

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm