The cracks in the Egyptian state opened a little wider last week.
Thousands of protesters stormed the headquarters of the hated state security police in Alexandria, Cairo and several provincial cities on Friday and Saturday.
But troops guarding a key torture centre in Lazoghly Square in Cairo broke up a large demonstration on Sunday, firing into the air and beating protesters.
The movement began in Alexandria. Hassan Mustafa, an activist with the left wing Democratic Popular Movement, told Al-Badil newspaper that he saw state security officers taking bags of shredded paper out of the police headquarters.
Mustafa and other activists gathered people for a demonstration. Numbers swelled with families of state security victims and within hours thousands had surrounded the building.
Determined to stop the destruction of crucial evidence showing the role of state security in torture and repression, they broke down the doors.
Four, including Hassan Mustafa, were injured by live bullets shot by soldiers.
The following day, similar protests sprung up across Egypt.
Outside the forbidding gates of the state security compound in Nasr City, on the outskirts of Cairo, military intelligence officers remonstrated with the growing crowd.
“There’s no one inside, they’ve all gone,” one officer claimed—minutes before demonstrators pushed into the building.
Inside they found bin bags full of shredded paper amid half-finished meals.
Millions of files documenting decades of surveillance of citizens and political activists were crammed into a huge archive overflowing with informants’ gossip and tortured confessions.
The attack on state security is part of a much bigger battle.
Hundreds of thousands of people are involved in protests, strikes and the physical removal of “symbols of the old regime”—the thousands of “little Mubaraks” in workplaces, offices and universities.
Journalists at key state-run newspapers have kicked out their editors. Thousands of university students demonstrated on Sunday and Monday demanding the resignation of their deans.
The process of purging the institutions of the state is driven from below, by pressure from the streets and the initiatives of revolutionaries.
It is also shaped by manoeuvres from above by the army council.
The trigger for the state security officers’ frenzy of document-shredding was the resignation of prime minister Ahmad Shafiq on Thursday.
His replacement, Essam Sharaf, is seen as less directly linked to the Mubarak regime.
Ahram Online website quoted a former senior military official, Safwat El Zayat, as saying that Shafiq had been part of a secret “ministry of war against the revolution”.
Yet despite claims that the army leadership is acting to protect the revolution, many activists are not convinced.
Everywhere there are signs of military leaders testing the revolutionaries—arresting striking postal workers in Al Fayyum, smashing the protest outside Lazoghly, condemning a young demonstrator, Amr el Beheiry, to five years in jail after a military tribunal.
As Ibrahim al-Sahary explains in an article for the Centre for Socialist Studies website: “The army council is leading the counter-revolution… but the people still want the downfall of the regime. All the regime. And so the revolution will continue.”