CAIRO — Their reasons for coming were varied, but the goal was the same for thousands of Egyptians who rallied Friday in Cairo's Tahrir Square: to remind the country's interim military rulers that they'd promised to steer Egypt on a more democratic path after ousting President Hosni Mubarak from power.
Khaled Abdelgawad, whose family of nine lives in a single room under a staircase, came to demand the creation of jobs and a fairer distribution of public wealth.
Mohamed Anani, a lab technician, took a 16-hour bus ride from the southern city of Aswan to add his voice to those demanding the full prosecutions of former regime officials.
Hala Sami, a young nurse, said she was demonstrating against the use of military courts to prosecute civilians.
Organizers called the event a "second revolution," and protesters demanded faster, more transparent reforms to move Egypt beyond the authoritarianism of the last several decades.
"Democracy means being a partner in the government!" a speaker yelled through a microphone to the cheering crowd. "We won't let anyone take that freedom from us!"
The estimated 10,000 people who gathered were nowhere near the million-strong crowd organizers had hoped for, but were still more than many Egyptians had expected, given obstacles such as bad weather, a boycott by the Muslim Brotherhood and widespread anticipation of violence from pro-regime thugs.
There's also a general "protest fatigue," a feeling expressed by many Egyptians who want to see an end to the unrest and the return of "stability."
That word, stability, "istikrar" in Arabic, has become a mantra for Egyptians who've grown anxious about so many changes taking place so quickly. The economy is in shambles, the crime rate is soaring, a security vacuum persists and the military rulers are struggling to satisfy the demands of rival factions.
Is this the time, many skeptical Egyptians ask, for more disruptive and potentially violent demonstrations?
"We're calling for a stable system, and anyone who accuses us of otherwise doesn't understand the demands!" yelled one unidentified speaker who took the stage to challenge the notion that the only people still in Tahrir Square are provocateurs.
Sami, 24, the nurse concerned about military trials, said she'd dressed with clashes in mind. Her hair was swept back in a bun, she wore no jewelry and her loose clothes and sneakers were suitable for a quick escape. She said the risk was worth it to make the military understand that people weren't universally pleased with its performance since the 18-day uprising.
"They're acting like they're with the people, but they're just looking out for their own interests," Sami said. "Why are they putting us to military trials? Mubarak was commander in chief; he, if anybody, should be the one going to military trial."
While the generals have few friends among the Tahrir Square crowd, the vast majority of Egyptians still trust the military, according to results released this month from a Pew survey on Egyptian attitudes since the uprising.