The Guardian reports: Thumping his shoe against a poster of a television host, Ahmed Magdi called on the gathering crowd below to denounce Egypt’s enemies and back what he said was the only group that could hold the country together.
Beneath the overpass he was using as a pulpit, thousands of protesters were streaming into a roundabout in west central Cairo, to support the fragile state’s military rulers.
The flag- and banner-waving protesters, who by late afternoon was around 20,000-strong, were a varied lot. Some openly yearned for the Mubarak days. Others were standard-bearers of the 25 January revolution that overthrew the veteran leader. Another group championed Egypt’s – eventual – democratic transition; yet others thought that the military leadership should remain indefinitely.
Their common denominator was that none of them thought the Scaf (Supreme Command of the Armed Forces) should be run out of town. All instead appeared to believe the country’s combustible streets would rapidly ignite if the junta ceded power to a revived uprising that they variously described as “reckless”, “stupid” or “naive”.
But as crowds grew throughout a mild, hazy afternoon, those on the pro-regime rally seemed to know they were losing the numbers game. Though well-attended, their rally was dwarfed by renewed scenes of people power at Tahrir Square, where it all began 11 months ago.
The retort was simple. “They say they have one million, well we have 85 million,” said Mona el-Gemayel, from a nearby neighbourhood in the suburb of Abbasiya. “These people are not taking to the streets because the uncertainty scares them. People need someone to guide their steps in such times.”
Gemayel’s words had echoes of the last words uttered by former Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman when he announced that Hosni Mubarak was stepping down. Ever since, Suleiman has stayed clear of the limelight. However, now Scaf supporters hold photos of the Mubarak man in a plaintive plea for stability.
Many openly said the best way forward for Egypt was to return to a bygone era. All the senior members of Scaf were well represented on posters and in chants. And few in the boisterous crowd would countenance the idea that security forces were killing or maiming unarmed civilians in Tahrir Square.