Egypt’s ‘last chance’: Tahrir braces for chaos

Tens of thousands are rallying in the Egyptian capital as the "March of millions" has flooded onto Tahrir square under the slogan “last chance.” But there is a fine line between peaceful protests and chaos, as RT’s Paula Slier reports.

­ While the demonstration in Cairo have so far been without incident, there have been reports of clashes in Alexandria.  As the crowd of thousands continues to swell in Cairo, political forces as divergent as the Muslim Brotherhood and former UN nuclear chief-turned-political dissident Mohamed El Baradei all showed up on Tahrir Square. Protesters have chanted “the people are one” through the day.  

A joke has also begun circulating amongst those gathered which follows: “those who can read and write join the army; those who can’t, sign up for the riot police.”

Despite the fact that trust in the military has fallen sharply in recent times, many Egyptians still view it as a source of stability.  The police, however, have long been despised for being notoriously corrupt.  

Meanwhile, Egypt's Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb has taken the unprecedented step of contradicting the current military government by expressing his support for the protesters.

However, there is also a growing counter-demonstration in support of the current regime just a few kilometers from Tahrir Square, setting the stage for a possible showdown. Paths have been cleared out among the crowds to allow ambulances to get through, as doctors have set up makeshift clinics in anticipation of what might come. While there have been no reports of serious injuries, a female journalist covering the demonstrations on Tahrir Square has been sexually assaulted. It's the third such reported assault since the start of the Egyptian revolution.

Apart from women convering the demonstrations, the RT correspondent notes in her Twitter feed that it is also becoming more difficult to walk around Tahrir as a foreign journalist.

Protesters in the square, seething over the military’s perceived failings over the past nine months, say they will not leave the iconic plaza until the generals step down in favor of a civilian presidential council.

Egypt’s military rulers rejected protester demands for them to step down and said on Thursday they would start the first round of parliamentary elections on time next week.

The country's state television has confirmed that Kamal Ganzouri, who served as prime minister under Hosni Mubarak from 1996-99, has been appointed as prime minister by the ruling military council. The decision came after the council apologized for the deaths of more than 40 protesters, killed in a week of fierce clashes.

Sherif Joseph Rizk, an activist from the New Republic Project, explains that Kamal Ganzouri symbolizes the worst of the Mubarak regime.

“Ironically, the appointed Prime Minister… he represented all of the dark policies of Mubarak, the far-right economic policies,” he told RT. “Because of him, there was a rise in unemployment in Egypt [and in] what’s attributed to economic disparities… Plus, of course, his human rights abuses.”

Speaking at his first press conference, Al Ganzouri has said he wouldn’t have taken his current position if he didn’t believe the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) would not step down from power. He claims the military council has given him more extensive powers than this predecessor Isam Sharaf, who stepped down earlier this week as a result of the bloodshed. He has also said he would not have an opportunity to appoint a new cabinet before Monday’s elections, though many members from Isam Sharaf’s cabinet might find a place in the new government.

However, protesters have rejected the appointment of  Ganzouri, as groups of demonstrators have attempted to organize a sit-in to pretent him from entering the ministry council building.

­At least 22 killed – morgue officials

­RT’s correspondent quotes morgue officials saying at least 22 Egyptians have been killed by live bullets since street battles began on Saturday. Doctors say many of the dead were killed with a single shot to the head – cases where bullets came from above, which suggests snipers. Human rights groups say it is irrelevant who fired live rounds – the army or police: what matters is, who gave the order to shoot.

Three people were reportedly killed in street battles on Wednesday as clashes between protesters and police near Tahrir Square flared with new intensity. Cops used military-grade tear gas to disperse the crowd and fired rubber bullets. 

Some reports suggest that live ammunition was also used.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) denied charges of firing live ammunition at the protesters, but said that all violations of human rights would be addressed and those responsible held to account.

However, Political activist Mr. Marwan Al Ashaal told RT Egypt’s ruling military council is actually behind the violence committed against the demonstrators and will one day be brought to justice for its crimes.

“The clash currently between the Ministry of the Interior and the people is actually lead by the SCAF, the ministry of the Interior used extreme violence against the demonstrators under the rule of the SCAF and under its own witness, now people were killed by internationally banned weapons and I think there has to be an international trial.”