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In Tahrir Square, a tent city blooms

By Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, CNN
Protesters surround a man alleged to be one of several armed men who tried to attack them in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Tuesday.
Protesters surround a man alleged to be one of several armed men who tried to attack them in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Tuesday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • There's a barber, a library and a satellite dish in the occupied square
  • The scene remains cautiously festive
  • "We don't request anymore. We give orders," an activist says
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Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- Thousands of pro-democracy protesters are making Cairo's Tahrir Square their home until all of their demands are met.

The famous and iconic roundabout, the focal point of the uprising early this year that forced the departure of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, is again packed with activists disgruntled by what they see as the slow pace of change.

They have set up camp in the center of the square in what has become known among them as Tent City. The show of force began after a major demonstration Friday in the square.

Many have brought TV sets, laptops, books, sleeping bags and clothes with them, suggesting they plan to stay for the long haul. One man even installed a satellite dish beside his tent, and the organizing committee has brought in dozens of fire extinguishers.

The scene remains cautiously festive as street vendors push their carts through the square selling fruits, fresh juices, popcorn, sandwiches, cold water and more to sustain the face-off against the government.

Several stages have been built, and musicians, artists and comedians have been entertaining the protesters. A barber has set up shop in the center square.

Political discussions flourish on every corner. Chants calling for the resignations of Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and Prime Minister Essam Sharaf waft across the square.

Egyptian prime minister announces Cabinet reshuffle

Citizens can frequent a tent in the center square labeled the "library" because it is filled with books about democracy, the constitution and law. There's a media tent where people can view uploaded images and videos of the square.

Traffic has been blocked and the entrances to the square have all been barricaded and manned with volunteers who search anyone coming in to make sure no weapons or troublemakers enter.

A group called the January 25 Coalition is demanding the immediate resignation of the interior minister, speedy trials of police officers accused of killing protesters in the earlier demonstrations, the end of military tribunals, the abolition of the emergency law, and economic reforms such as the establishment of a minimum wage.

The sit-in could fly in the face of recently established measures.

The Supreme Council had established a law in April against protests that hinder the economic interests of the country. Those arrested could face a sentence of up to three years and a fine.

But protesters are talking about escalating pressure on the government.

For two days, the protesters prevented hundreds of employees from entering Mugamma Tahrir, a government building in the square. The building was reopened on Wednesday.

A march to the prime minister's office also was announced, and talk of civil obedience was discussed among the political parties and activists.

Thousands gather in Cairo's Tahrir Square for protest

Reforming police and punishing those who harmed protesters are major issues in the square.

In an attempt to appease the protesters, Prime Minister Sharaf delivered a televised speech Saturday in which he announced he has ordered the sacking of all police officers accused of killing protesters during the popular uprising that ousted Mubarak.

The speech was met with disdain by political parties and protesters who thought it was too late for such concessions. On Wednesday, authorities said 587 generals and brigadiers were booted out of the police force.

"He made promises he has not kept," said Wael Omar, a founder of Radio Tahrir. "This is a revolutionary moment in our history, and we need a leader who understands what it really means."

"We gave them almost six months to cleanse the country, but nothing changed," said Sherif Barakat, sitting in his tent as he followed news on the Internet.

Interior Minister Mansour el-Essawy said "dealing with accused police officers will go according to the law."

Maj. Ahmed Ragab, who represents a police officers' group, was more vocal when CNN asked about his view on the prime minister's decision.

"They are using us as scapegoats," he said. "Most of those accused officers were following orders or protecting their police station. We will not allow this to happen, and it could have a negative feedback. This is absurd!"

Defiant protests continue across Egypt in the cities of Alexandria, Suez and Port Said. They are similar to that staged against Mubarak when the revolution unfolded on January 25.

Are you there? Share your photos, videos and stories, but please stay safe.

"The Supreme Council running the show are pressuring Prime Minister Essam Sharaf. It is not his fault nothing is working in this country. Why do they only give concessions when we protest?" said Yehia Zakaria a filmmaker who has been sleeping in the square since July 8.

Sharaf gave another highly anticipated televised speech Monday in which he announced that he was going to reshuffle the Cabinet by Sunday and start implementing the changes in the "cleansing" of the police force by Friday. An announcement on the reshuffling of mayors is expected by July 30.

The activists in the January 25 Coalition said they will not leave the square until Sharaf's promises are fulfilled according the timeline announced.

The statement also thanked the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces for allowing broadcast of the trials of the former members of the corrupt regime and "killer of the revolutionaries" on screens that will be installed outside the courthouses.

At the same time, Gen. Mohsen El-Fangary, assistant defense minister and member of the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces, called on "honorable Egyptian citizens to stand against any attempts to hinder the restoration of normal life ... and to stand against any rumors."

Many activists perceived the tone as threatening.

"We don't request anymore," said Mohamed Latif, an activist in charge of security at Tahrir Square. "We give orders."

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