Tanks were stationed on the outskirts of the square, and metal barriers were established at each entrance. The Square itself appeared to be a music festival, with families picnicking, people of all ages taking photos and videos, tomtoms beating and music blaring. Crowds formed around several stages, where speakers urged the army to clean the government and make way for civilian control. Young people cheered, laughed and sang. Hawkers sold Egyptian flags, ribbons, bumper stickers and cards celebrating the start of the revolution on January 25 and mourning the martyrs killed. Women and men cleaned the streets with their brooms.
Adding to the joy of the day was a visit by the new Prime Minister, Essam Sharaf. He came to the Square to tell the protesters that he would work to meet their demands. He saluted the "martyrs" of the revolution and told the crowd that he drew his legitimacy from them. Protestors escorted him from the stage on their shoulders.
Although at first I was nervous at the prospect of attending a demonstration at a site where so many protesters had been killed, I felt very comfortable. When many Egyptians recognized I was American, they welcomed me and expressed their pride at unseating Mubarak. Others spoke of their happiness in gaining the freedom to shape their future. I felt a common bond with the demonstrators, as human beings seeking to live their lives as they wished.
The values in evidence were respect for others, collaboration, citizenship, political activism and integrity. A clear and focused political agenda brought together people with a tremendous diversity of interests. Organizers created a climate that welcomed Egyptians alienated from the political process.
It will be a challenge to maintain these values as Egypt builds responsive democratic institutions and legal frameworks. However, I am convinced that the demonstrators and everyone in their lives have been transformed. They are determined to do everything in their power to combat the values that facilitated their subjugation by the Mubarak regime. People throughout the world should support them in their struggle to translate their values into a democratic system that respects the interests of all Egyptians.
Cross posted in Secular Perspectives