Around 1:30 today, the tragedy began when pro-Mubarak supporters appeared, marching towards the square. The people in the square rushed to the barricades to set up a human wall, as a group of women yelled, “peaceful,” as a reminder of the strong show of peaceful demonstration the last two days. Soon, however, the Mubarak supporters broke through the human barricades. After about 20 minutes they were pushed back. This lead to stones being thrown between protesters and Mubarak supporters, who were clashing with each other at the army checkpoint (the army began to hide in their tanks, not doing anything) on the road from the square to the 6th of October overpass, next to the Egyptian Museum. The overpass was lined with supporters and these supporters were well stocked with pictures of Mubarak and flags (suspiciously so).
I talked to a young man named Mahmoud, who had seen me taking a picture of a fight between a few supporters and protesters . I asked what he thought of these clashes. He told me that he thinks the elections are too far away and might not be a solution to all the damage that has been done by the past couple of days. He continued by saying that “It will really hurt Egypt to have Egyptians fight each other. He also said he was not sure if these were genuine supporters of Mubarak or real thugs, when I asked him.
By 2:25 the protesters had pushed the Mubarak supporters back to the 6th of October overpass. It was hard to see where the line between the two groups was, but i had a general ideal based by where the rocks in the air were. People started shouting “Where is the Egyptian Military,” upset that they were not separating the two groups, and just sitting on the side lines, or in their tanks as battles often raged on top of them.
By 2: 36 I looked through a zoom lens of a photographer I met and saw the supporters were back at the former check points, which at this point could only be described as tanks in the street. A young woman told us to go towards the clashes. She wanted to the magnitude of the clashes and injuries to be documented. As I walked forward, there was a dash past me by protesters to the front lines, as I witnessed men with head injuries being carried back. I say one man walking back holding broken arms and another holding his stomach, both wincing in agony. Up towards the front line I watched supporters trying to get in from one side streets and then getting chased back. Then, suddenly, men on horses and camels from the Mubarak side broke through the line next to the Egyptian Museum, leading to a stampede. They attacked with whips and sticks, but were soon knocked off and the Animals and were taken out of the clashes by the pro-democracy protesters.
By 3:00 the supporters were pushed back to the tanks once again. I watched as the injured were being carried back. Men grabbed me and told me to take pictures of the ID, of who they were calling, a police officer who had just killed one of the protesters.
I had men running up to me telling me, “This is Hosni’s path” pointing at the protesters. Another came up to me and said that these were the” Secret Police of Mubarak.” Another said, “Hosni killed citizens. Go away!” while another pointed at the overpass and said, “All of these men are prisoners” referring to the prisoners who were released from prison. It is clear that no one believes that these are genuine pro-Mubarak supporters, but rather the police or hired thugs.
As the clashes went back and forth, there was a human barricade made up of rows of people with their arms linked together. They were set up back, towards the square were remaining there in case that the Mubarak supporters broke through again. Within it I noticed one of the Sheikhs from al-Azhar, arms linked with the other men forming the wall. It seemed clear that control of the square was the goal at the moment for both sides.
During one lull of the Supporters being pushed back there were shouts of “Ya Rab” (Oh, Lord) and “They must leave! We won’t leave!” During this lull, I saw some people move stones to the grass, away from the street. I also heard people say, “no bricks,” to people trying to break brick into a toss-able size,
This, however, broke down and people started ripping slaps of tiles from the square and breaking them with unbelievable speed and efficiency, and then throwing them into bags, crates, and even the flatbeds, which were then pushed to the front. This tendered to be become free ammunition for whichever side controlled that ground at the moment.
Even with these back and forth clashes, people where still holding rallies in the square, trash was being picked up, and food being passed out. The democracy movement is determined to keep this rally sustainable. It is a tragedy this event has now overshadowed the hope the people are trying so hard to maintain in the square, with rage, terror, death, and sorrow.
As I left, clashes were still occurring, but at the Qasr al-Nil entrance, order was still being maintained and people were stopped from breaking up bricks. As I left I noticed that the supporters at that bridge were quite small. Given the situation on the news of fire bombs and satellite dishes being thrown by pro-Mubarak supporters from roofs I can’t even begin to guess if that check point is still peaceful. [Later news would report clashes on the Qasr el-Nil Bridge].
Now that I am sitting at home watching the news, I must assert that these were not just ordinary people coming to protest in support of Mubarak. As Beth said to me, “300,000 Central Security officers don’t just disappear overnight.” As I saw, there are police IDs being taken from pro-Mubarak supporters. News reports just confirm this to me. I sincerely believe that the violence was sparked due to pro-Mubarak supporters. This is the beginning of Mubarak’s hunt for those who “targeted the nation's security and stability through acts of provocation theft and looting and setting fires and blocking roads and attacking vital installations and public and private properties and storming some diplomatic missions.” Just as his view was completely skewed in his speech, is he going to start claiming that those who were peaceful--until thugs broke the checkpoints--attacked normal citizens who just came to show support to their beloved leader.
It is absolutely absurd to believe that these protests, which had been and still are so peaceful, when not forced to violence, would give a pretext for a crackdown, especially when so much effort has in focusing their peaceful message of “Mubarak must go,”. The pamphlets being distributed the past few nights, which called for peaceful assembly without exception, just adds to this faith that they did not willfully take up violence, but were rather pushed to it. Instead, those who climbed buildings with petrol bombs, those that came in on horses and camels, attacking people with whips, they are the ones who wanted this. If they wanted to peacefully assemble, they would have picked a different square. Even Haaretz is reporting that plain clothed officers are prevented anti-government protesters from entering buildings to prevent thugs from throwing petrol bombs and bricks down on the protesters. I guess that is Mubarak’s version of protecting freedom of expression.
It seems that the internet was turned on today so that the outside world would see the violence and call for the protesters to settle for what fake reforms and judicial threats Mubarak has thrown at them. After the horror I witnessed today I hope the world leaders will give up on their irrational fear of an Islamic take over and will tell Mubarak to step down, and that the opposition leaders, who are only there because of the voice and brave actions of the youth, will step up with a unifying proposal for an interim government, which will show the world, what Egypt already knows: there is an alternative to the dichotomies of ‘dictatorship or anarchy’ and ‘dictatorship or Islamic republic.’ Ultimately though, it has been the people who have fought this fight and they will make the decision for their nation.
Yasqut! Yasqut! Hosni Mubarak!