Friday was billed as a day of rage and a revival of the revolution in Cairo. After 1,000 protesters were injured in clashes with police the previous week, activists pegged July 8 as a day to take back the revolution and show the ruling military council that such violence would not be tolerated.
Walking through the square, one might not have known that was the purpose of the day. With a large white tent blanketing the circle, vendors selling trinkets, and food stands throughout, the protests could easily have been mistaken for a national day festival. The atmosphere in Tahrir was cheerful, with people from all walks of life and ages milling about — having their faces painted with the red, white, and black colors of the flag, sharing food, and protesting. Unlike previous calls for protests or days of rage, there was a revitalized and positive energy in the crowd.
A day many activists worried might turn violent instead became an improvised celebration of Egyptian identity. From the thousands of flags waving in the afternoon sun to the spontaneous eruptions into the national song “Ya Habibiti ya Misr,” Egyptians' spirits were high and patriotism was on full display. Many activists took to Twitter to express their joy and satisfaction with the event. One tweet read, “The people are as beautiful as the roses.” Many others called it a “great day for democracy in Egypt.”
The large turnout, sense of unity, and lighthearted mood all contributed to the success of the day. So too did an implicit sense of relief. After last week’s violent clashes, the protesters were determined not to give ground. They were also wary of another brutal response from the military. By 10 p.m. it appeared that, at least for now, the military would not interfere, allowing tension to take a back seat to a positive energy flowing from the revived revolution.
Photo Credit: David Dietz