Or can they? Reports are that the army has forcibly dispersed protesters sitting in in Luxor and Suez (where clashes have erupted amidst fierce protests at the release of a number of policemen accused of killing martyrs). Many are starting to wonder when the same will happen in Tahrir, when the pedestrian’s paradise blocked off to traffic will be broken up by the nefarious orders of the Ministry of Interior and its wicked police puppets. Of late (summary of the latest political events), the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the Ministry of the Interior have appeared to make a number of concessions to the protesters, including dismissing hundreds of police officers (who they are remains debated), delaying parliamentary elections until November, and reshuffling cabinet positions (with possibly just more of the same old). It remains to be seen whether these are merely empty promises, or if the military will actually follow through. In some ways, continuing the process of this revolution is the steepest hill in this battle, because the army, entrenched both economically and politically, will be hard-pressed to budge.
Some nights later, I find myself in Tahrir again, waiting for the voice of the revolution, Ramy Esseim, to come and regail the crowd with his music. Esseim became famous at the peak of the revolution when he performed a song in the square; he was subsequently arrested and beaten brutishly when police broke up the protests. Before he performs, a plump woman takes the stage and vehemently begins denouncing the tazweer (rigging) of the bureaucratic system that is still imposing itself on the Egyptian people. Her fervor snakes through the crowd, eliciting whistles and cheers. Then Ramy Esseim… kulana yeed wahda (all of us are one hand, united.)
This is the Arab Woodstock, with a whole lot of politics thrown in. Making the rounds of the square, I hear average citizens reading delicate Arabic poetry on stage, pronouncing every letter and accent, so far from Egyptian Arabic. Activists from Twitter hold seminars to meet one another. Artists delegate corners for their work, depicting cartoons berating politicians, the revolution’s martyrs, memories of January 25. Every so often, an exodus leaves the square, heading toward the cabinet offices or the Ministry of the Interior with heads and voices raised high. A movie of Gamal Abdul Nasser’s 1952 revolution echoes across the pavement. Socialists hold mini conferences outside of their tent to discuss labor rights and Mubarak’s rampant privatization. Angsty shabab boys with nothing better to do wonder the square, running into old men shouting at each other about elections and new ministers. There is a tension to the square, in that no one is united or even sure of what they want to accomplish by being there. There is a sense of both disappointment and renewed vigor, in that Egyptians left the streets too early, leaving the crooked system in place instead of replacing it with a revolutionary government. But despite all this, there is a simultaneous cohesion, a desire to build something - the new Egypt.
Welcome to Tahrir.