The military men now running Egypt’s transitional government have long been at pains to portray themselves as friends and guardians of the revolution. During bloody protests in January and February that ousted President Hosni Mubarak, the military was widely seen as a counterbalance to police and Mubarak’s thugs. Since then, on state television and billboards around Cairo, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) led by Mubarak’s Defence Minister, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, has continued repeating the message of one chant popular during the uprising: “the people and the army are one hand.”

But five months later it seems many Egyptians aren’t buying it. Mass protests across the country on Friday — the biggest since Mubarak’s overthrow — have evolved into an ongoing occupation of Cairo’s Tahrir square. Recent weeks have  also seen sporadic clashes between protesters, soldiers and “baltageya” — a shadowy menace of thugs many believe are in the pay of Mubarak loyalists.  More protests are planned.

Egypt’s revolution, it seems, is moving into its second act. While the atmosphere in Tahrir has remained festive, even exuberant, popular anger is mounting against SCAF. The guardians of the revolution are turning out in the eyes of many to be its traitors. The new chant in Tahrir after Friday is “the people want the fall of the Field Marshal”.

Among the demands of protesters is that SCAF speed up the trial of police and officials accused of corruption and the killing of more than 840 people during the uprising. They also want an end to Egypt’s three-decade state of emergency and ongoing military trials that have seen thousands tried since Mubarak’s resignation.  SCAF and interim Prime Minister Essam Sharaf are yet to formulate a complete response to the demands.

The growing realisation among Egypt’s protesters, including secular leftists and many members of Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, is that the revolution that they thought they had won back in February is only just beginning. While the ads and billboards may say otherwise, the suspicion is growing among protesters that SCAF is shielding Mubarak and his loyalists from popular wrath.

“This is beyond just a simple getting rid of one dictator,” said Ahmed Salah, one of the protest organisers, who said he was attacked and nearly killed by a mob of baltageya as protests went ugly late last month. “It’s a whole system that has to be shaken and torn down. We have only touched the tip of an iceberg but you still have … the huge mountain underwater that is still out there.”

Protesters versus SCAF is only one of the fault lines here. Serious distrust also exists between secular forces, the Brotherhood and, further to their right, ultraconservative Salafi Islamists. Secularists had pushed for elections slated for September to be delayed in order to give them enough time to compete with the Brotherhood, who are the only opposition group with any significant organisational clout. One suspicion is that the Brotherhood leadership is angling for a strengthened position in a quasi-democracy dominated by the military and Mubarak regime holdovers.

In the end, the Brotherhood turned up to Friday’s protest, after secularists dropped their demand for delayed elections and also to stem the tide of disaffection among the Brotherhood’s own more democratically inclined younger members. But while many protesters dug in for a long sit-in, the Brotherhood packed up and went home at the end of the day.

Egypt’s revolution, viewed from Tahrir, is still an uncertain prospect.