Less than a week later, clashes erupted at a Cairo courthouse after a judge ordered the release on bail of seven police officers accused of killing 17 protesters and wounding 300 others in the canal city of Suez -- widely viewed as the symbolic heart of the revolution. The ruling touched off two days of rioting in Suez, with hundreds of people torching police cars and trying to storm government buildings. Some protesters blocked a highway outside the city, temporarily shutting down transportation to the nearby port while others threatened to shut down the Suez Canal, a primary source of foreign income for Egypt.
Over the past five months, only one policeman has been convicted -- in absentia -- for the killing of protesters during the revolution, in which nearly 1,000 people were killed. Over the same time period, more than 10,000 civilians have been tried in military courts, where they are routinely denied access to lawyers and family and receive sentences ranging from a few months to five years.
"The Supreme Council has not honored its pledge to bring people to justice," says Ghada Shahbandar, an activist with the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights. "It has no constitutional legitimacy at all. Any legitimacy it has comes from the people, and the people are making their voices heard."
Despite the scale of the July 8 protests and the open sit-in, there was no immediate reaction from the Supreme Council. Instead, in what activists saw as another provocation, the military announced that Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi had sworn in a new minister of information, the Wafd Party's Osama Heikal. The Information Ministry has long been viewed as an integral part of the state propaganda apparatus, and many believed the position, which had not been filled for five months, would remain vacant. Many activists pointed angrily to an editorial Heikal penned on Jan. 24, one day before the revolution began, in which he wrote, "No one wants a clash between people and the regime. What we should understand is that people want change and the quieter those changes come the better this will be for Egypt."