Yesterday, the 25th of January, stretching into the early morning was inspiring. Yes, Egyptians you have been inspired and you inspire. “The day of anger” became a day of love and hope and aspiration. A day of possibilities.
I followed the events all day, from the morning when the protests/marches began until the evening when demonstrations continued throughout Egypt, in Alexandria, Cairo, Mahalla, Mansoura. I followed on Facebook (“We are all Khaled Said”) and Twitter (3arabawy), as well as the Guardian and CNN for live updates.
In the morning marches the word was out that the Mubarak regime gave the unprecedented ‘go ahead’ to protestors, in the case of a restrain from vandalism. And marches spread and spread throughout Cairo – in Ramses, Nile Cornish, Bulaq, Mohandiseen, Dokki, Shobra, Dar El Salam. At one point thousands and thousands (an unconfirmed report of 20,000!) converged on Gamat Dowal Alarabiya Street in Mohandiseen. And more marchers converged, to convene at Tahrir, in front of the Parliament.
Outside of Cairo protests started early on in Assuit and Sinai. Then, later demonstrations exploded in Mahalla, Suez, Alexandria.
By mid-afternoon, when the police were “overwhelmed” by the numbers, minute by minute reports began to come out of ‘clashes’… The police began to use tear gas, rubber bullets. Protestors were trying to break down the police cordons and clashes ensued. Reports are that both police and protestors were throwing rocks. The police began to beat protestors, arrest them (it seems at least some of the arrests were selective, targeting public opposition figures and known activists).
And then the phone lines began to be cut. Twitter was down. Facebook stayed open all day and night, but I could no longer follow Twitter and I could not reach my friends by phone in Mounira/Dokki/AlMarg. The large group of protestors who convened at Tahrir by late afternoon confirmed that most phone lines were cut. TEData had cut Twitter – and until now there is no access.
Protestors began to tear down posters of Hosni Mubarak (in Mahalla and Alexandria) and advertisements for the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP)(in Cairo, near to the Parliament). Throughout the day people were sending in/posting videos caught by their mobiles of protestors chanting “Ra7l” like the protestors in Tunisia. “Out, Mubarak!” “Mesh 3ayzeen’ak (We don’t want you)!” As the international media began to get on the scene more of people’s voices were broadcast. The activist/blogger-reporters and the protestors alike were surprised by the showing. They were surprised that so many Egyptians came out to participate – young and middle aged and old, unemployed and employed, professional and working class.
A large group convened at Tahrir, vowing to take over the Parliament and then to stage a sit-in overnight. The reports that I read this morning (and video clips that I watched) were that in the early morning hours the police waged a massive clampdown with tear gas, in an effort to disperse the protestors. At this point it appears that Tahrir has been cleared, at least for the time being. And three people total are reported dead – two protestors and one police officer.
The day of demonstrations – the “day of the beginning of the revolution” – seems to be very well organized, largely through the social networking sites (Twitter and Facebook) a couple of weeks prior. It was non-violent on the part of protestors, and especially in the morning marches I saw families present – men and women with their children. And really throughout the day I read of people coming to the demonstrations with their parents, their children. It was not a day for and by “the young people” as Al Baradei claimed on CNN, but a day for and by THE PEOPLE. And there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that this protest was orchestrated by the Muslim Brotherhood, as the Mubarak Administration has claimed. The Brotherhood has even stated publicly that they would not actively participate.
And the organizers chose the 25th – Police Day – in a symbolic gesture: Will the police be on the side of Egyptians at this point in history as they were in 1951, when they defended Egyptians against the British?!
Like the protests in Tunisia, most pictures show middle age men – raising their voices, raising their fists, walking side by side, running through the streets. I felt such joy for these men, to be expressing their anger and frustrations in union, to take over public spaces that are so tightly controlled (even for just a bit), to run ‘freely’. It must have been an unforgettable day for them, a day of elation. Not just for these men, of course, but for all those who took part.
And all of us who support their demands we support that the protests continue. On and on and on until demands are met! We will do what we must do to support the aspirations and rights of Egyptians! Tell us how…