The day started with high expectations for me. But after getting shoved around Tahrir square by one riot policeman after another for hours I was beginning to lose hope. They knew we were coming, and there were hundreds of them. Later there’d be thousands – riot police and mukhabarat alike. Their strategy was to prevent anybody from standing in one place for long. Then, they closed off the entire square which was a massive undertaking. The square was literally emptied of anyone who wasn’t a member of the security apparatus.
I have to admit that I felt a little defeated when I saw how effectively they’d sealed the area. I couldn’t walk thirty meters in any direction without being harassed by a Mubarak subordinate.
The protest began spontaneously at about two forty-five on one of the side streets. I’d been there since 10 am and was growing pretty despondent until I heard the commotion. At this point, I didn’t care how big the protest was I just wanted to vent some frustration; I am a young Arab, after all.
A group of about thirty men broke through a police cordon and about fifty of us joined them right away. That group quickly swelled to several hundred men and women. And an hour later, there were thousands of us. At various times over the course of the next four hours, I experienced a total failure in my ability to synthesize events around me. Was this really Mubarak’s Egypt? Was this really the spot where I’d been hounded by mukhabarat that morning? Right before I left, I climbed up on top of a police booth to get a better view. Someone said that I should get down, and I asked why. He didn’t have an answer for me.
We began to head towards the parliament building when the riot police began to use CS gas against us. First they shot the canisters over our heads, but then they began to lob them at us. It wasn’t a very good decision since we were able to kick the canisters right back in their direction. They were overcome by the gas and that caused their ranks to break. We rushed them and they started to beat people with their batons and that’s when the flagstone fragments began to fly.
As you can see in the video, they turned and ran and we chased after them. They got reinforcements and pushed back a few times and we ended up running. In the end, we didn’t make it to the parliament building but this is just the beginning. And the process of chasing down the tangible repression arm of the regime was explosively cathartic. I can’t really explain it.
I left the protest at about seven to write some dispatches and upload material, but from what I understand it’s still going on. I’m not very good at counting heads, but there were many thousands of people still demonstrating in Tahrir square when I left, and I think they’re still there. The intention is to keep them going all night and hopefully I’ll be heading back there soon. Tahrir means Liberation, by the way.