Wednesday, February 2, 2011

January 25 & 26, 2011

This is the first post in a while, and for good reason. The events of the past two days and now going onto a third seem to be the beginning of something long overdue in Egypt. While I cannot speak for the Egyptian people (they are doing a good job of that already), I want to spread the word about what is going on based on what I’ve seen and send the messages of the people I have talked to in the street. This is what I have been writing the past week since the internet was shut off.

Tuesday January 25, was the first day of protests, and the events are something truly historic. Never in my time in Egypt have I seen such large crowds move through Cairo. Activists from every ideology have always held protests, but never has a rally gained so much momentum and seen so much participation from average citizens. Early in the day, the square was completely locked down by rows of police, which would be smashed though as the marchers reached the square and remaining through the night.

Last night (Jan 26) I walked into the Down Town area to see what was going on. It became apparent pretty quickly that the government was shaken. As I walked along the cornice to the bridge to get to the center of town, there were over 20 Central Security patty wagons parked on alert. There was a brigade of Central Security officers, sticks and shields in hand, standing in formation on the bridge. Traffic was very light on the bridge for that time at night. As I approached Tahrir Sq. I could see that the government was making sure that no protesters would get into the square like the day before. Pedestrians were allowed to cross the square, but not in large groups. I stood at a bus stop for a bit so I could watch the police movements. For the next 30 minutes I watched Tala’at Harb Street blockaded: 3 brigades march down the street, along with Central Security vehicles.

After being told to move along by an officer, I moved along the side streets of Downtown, Cairo. I attempted to walk down Tala’at Harb, but was turned back so I walked down Champolion st. until I heard what I thought was a rally in front of Abu Tareq Koshery, one street over. The rally quickly turned into a skirmish between plain clothed police officers and the protesters, with police antagonizing them with clubs and rocks. The protesters retreated but quickly the officers were pushed back. As a took pictures of the protests getting ready for the riot police to storm the street many Egyptians would run up to me and anyone with a camera who might be a reporter and saying things like “All of the Watani party are thieves.”

The Central Security agency and the protesters had a back and forth skirmish with protesters charging forward after each retreat from the rubber bullets fired into the crowd. After 20 more minutes of this, the government charged and the group dispersed down the 2 open streets, with the police running after one group.

I followed protesters who ran to Ramsis street. On Ramsis St. there was another group of protesters who blocked the exit ramp from the 6th of October overpass. They blocked traffic and taunted a police tow truck but were peaceful and started marching down the street. One person told me that the military was on the streets of Suez. This rally was quickly broken up by 6 security personnel. The city started to quiet down. This would be a tense calm until Friday noon prayer.


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