CAIRO — Hundreds of thousands thronged major squares across Egypt on Wednesday, marking the first anniversary of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak with rallies that laid bare the divisions that have replaced the unity of last year's revolt.
Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the 18 days of protests against Mubarak, was transformed into the focal point of the rivalry between revolutionary activists intent on showing they can still mobilize the street, and the Muslim Brotherhood, who emerged as Egypt's dominant political force after a landslide victory in parliamentary elections.
The secular activists want continued protests to force the immediate ouster of the generals who took power after Mubarak's fall, saying they are just as dictatorial as the former president. The activists touted their powerful turnout as a sign they can pressure the Brotherhood, who they fear will accommodate the military in order to ensure their own political dominance.
"I have hope that these marches will be a message to the Brotherhood as much as the military council," said Sahar Abdel-Mohsen, who walked 31/2 miles in a giant march across Cairo to Tahrir.
"We all know even if the Brotherhood are strong, the military council is still stronger. ... What we all want is an end to military rule," she said.
Both sides were intent on bringing out as many supporters as possible to show their weight in a nation still reeling from the aftershocks of Mubarak's ouster.
The Islamists got off to a strong start, taking up positions in the morning and claiming the right to police the square, with Brotherhood volunteers checking the bags of those entering.
From a large stage with 10 loudspeakers, they blared religious songs and chants of "Allahu akbar," setting a tone of celebration for what they called the successes of the revolution, particularly the newly elected parliament.