Tourists In Tahrir, Ctd

by Patrick Appel

Reporting from Cairo, Graeme Wood's says it "falls now to the protesters to prove that their revolution is alive and hasn't turned into a mere carnival":

These crowds [in Tahrir square] are a blessing. Until recently, the government could paint the demonstrators as foreign-led subversives. Now, Egyptians know the subversion is real but homegrown. Yet increasingly, the blessing seems mixed. Of the newcomers to the square, few are hard-core revolutionaries. Instead, they are tourists from Cairo and beyond, snapping photos and gawking at the remarkable spectacle of their president ridiculed, hanged in effigy, and taunted in a venue where he was once scarcely mentioned in an unflattering way.

The square was once mobilized for self-defense, and at the rattle of a piece of sheet metal, a hundred men and women would sprint toward the threat, ready to be maimed for the cause of freedom. Now it takes ten minutes to cover the same distance, and you'd have to push past vendors of popcorn and novelty sunglasses to get there.

The protesters have tried to keep momentum by spilling south toward Parliament. But Parliament is not enough, and everyone knows it. The two sites commonly mentioned for the protesters' next step are the president's palace and the state TV building, which in January was attacked but not seized. During my years in Cairo, before any of the recent troubles, the state TV building was always heavily guarded and assumed to be a vital prize for anyone attempting a coup. It remains a forbidding target, with snipers in the windows and tanks on the streets. If the protesters mobilize to march there, expect violence.

Scott Lucas's related thoughts here.