Strikes & Protests Continue; Military Issues Communique No. 1

The Egyptian prime minister formed a committee intended to gather evidence on “the illegitimate practices” that resulted from the events of recent weeks. The committee will receive reports from citizens and civil society organizations and then present a report to the public prosecutor. In possibly related news, a police captain from the city of New Valley who issued orders to shoot at protestors was arrested. Al-Jazeera reported on television that the Egypt military had“[entered the] grounds of parliament for the first time in Egyptian history,” following protestors who had established a demonstration in the area. Widespread labor strikes in multiple industries continued all over the country, with Reuters suggesting that growing strikes are a sign of “[the] spirit of civil disobedience spreading” beyond Egypt’s major cities.

In the afternoon, Army commander Hassan al-Roweny, addressed crowds in Tahrir Square, proclaiming to the protesters: “Everything you want will be realized.” Later, the Egyptian military issued “Communique No. 1,” a short declaration that included an “endorsement for the people’s [rightful/legitimate] demands.”

Around 10:45pm Cairo time, following the release of the communique, President Hosni Mubarak spoke on state television, reiterating his refusal to resign. Mubarak did, however, announce a shift of powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman: “I saw fit to delegate the authorities of the president to the vice president, as dictated by the Constitution,” Mubarak said, adding that he was “adamant to continue to shoulder my responsibility to protect the Constitution and safeguard the interests of the people.”

The lengthy speech was seen by many Egyptians as condescending, and according to the New York Times, it “underlined a seemingly unbridgeable gap between ruler and ruled in Egypt.” Mubarak’s declaration that he would remain in office caused some protesters to warn that the largely peaceful rallying seen thus far may soon escalate to violence.

Mubarak’s speech also triggered reactions from the international community. President Obama called on the Egyptian government to take clearer action: “The Egyptian people have been told that there was a transition of authority, but it is not yet clear that this transition is immediate, meaningful or sufficient.” Obama added that“[too] many Egyptians remain unconvinced that the government is serious about a genuine transition to democracy, and it is the responsibility of the government to speak clearly to the Egyptian people and the world.”

Following Mubarak’s speech, protesters in Cairo made their way from Tahrir Square to the Radio and Television Building (RTB)—widening the protest camps from Tahrir Square, to Parliament, to the RTB, and the presidential palace. The RTB, from which a constant stream of government propaganda against the demonstrators has emanated, was barricaded with barbed wire and armored vehicles. Even so, protestors indicated their intent to remain there. Mubarak’s speech also spurred a new round of protests in Alexandria, Giza, Mansoura, Tanta, Mahala, Ismailia, and Suez—with hundreds of thousands in attendance across the cities.