From the Guardian’s liveblog of Friday’s protests in Egypt. Earlier in the day, police were sent to attack protesters after Friday prayers, but the crowd pushed back, apparently taking control of the streets in Alexandria, Suez, and at least parts of Cairo. In response:
Mubarak has sent in the army to restore order in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez but protesters cheered the army in some areas, calling on them to side with them against the police (3.43 pm). In some areas the army has done so. Soldiers have shaken hands with protesters in Alexandria and in Cairo. Demonstrators have clambered onto tanks in Suez and Cairo. There have also been unconfirmed reports of clashes between the army and police
The police withdrew from the streets on Friday, and seem to have abandoned them all weekend. There are unconfirmed reports that police in plainclothes took part in looting and violence, hoping to discredit the protests. In response, neighbors gathered to patrol their streets. After someone broke into the Egyptian museum of antiquities, damaging two mummies and other artifacts, protesters formed a cordon around the building until the army arrived to protect it.
On Sunday, 5 major opposition groups – including the moderate Islamist Muslim Brotherhood – agreed to be represented in a transitional government by UN nuclear watchdog and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Mohamed ElBaradei.
Today, the army issued a statement acknowledging “the legitimacy of your [protesters’] demands,” and pledging not to use violence against nonviolent protests. The statement urged against looting, sabotage, or other violence, but insists that the army’s goal is to protect “freedom of expression through peaceful means.” The statement promises, “The presence of the army in the streets is for your sake and to ensure your safety and wellbeing. The armed forces will not resort to use of force against our great people.”
This is the end of Mubarak. He may control the palaces, but to treat him as the nation’s president is to celebrate a fiction. Whether he joins his family in exile now or in a week or in September seems irrelevant.
Watching this revolution unfold over the last week has been remarkable. The death toll is sad, but relative to many revolutions, this one has been remarkably peaceful.
“We have spoken. When the citizens speak, we cannot go back,” said Ahmed Mustafa. “I came here to fight the fear inside me. Now people have lost their fear.”
That’s how it ought to work. After 30 years of Mubarak’s fear-based rule, Egypt can finally come out into the open. It will be a beautiful thing to see when this is over, and it’s been moving to see it unfold.