Hundreds of protesters rallied in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday, briefly scuffling with riot police and defying Egypt's military rulers who are eager to prevent any demonstrations in the iconic square since forcefully clearing a weekslong sit-in by youth activists last week.
Protesters briefly threw bottles and stones at the columns of police in riot gear before other demonstrators formed a human chain in front of the police to stop the violence. Many were chanting: "the people want Tahrir Square back."
The army forcefully broke up the sit-in by activists in the square last week, and security forces have been heavily deployed in the square since, signaling that the military will no longer allow protesters to gain a foothold for mass demonstrations there.
That has frustrated many activists, who feel they have won the right to rally in Tahrir, which served as the epicenter of the uprising that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak in February. Since the regime's fall, activists have used mass demonstrations in Tahrir to successfully press further demands on the military.
Friday's rally was planned by youth activists and Sufis, a mystical order of Islam that has generally stayed out of politics, as a counterpoint to a mass demonstration by hard-line Salafi Muslims last month who called for the imposition of Islamic law.
Addressing the crowd, Sufi leader Alaa Eddin Abu el-Azayam said the gathering sent a message that no single force can rule Egypt or drive a wedge between its different sects and faiths.
"This is to show that there are Christians and Muslims who don't alienate each other, or hate each other," el-Azayam said.