Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Is it a revolution?

At 8:30pm, thousands are gathered in Tahrir Square in downtown cairo. The exits are secured by volunteers, but people are allowed to exit and re-enter at multiple points. It has been a long day, and it is far from over.

A veiled girl wanders through the crowd collecting money in a helmet to bring food for everyone gathered. Every so often cheers erupt, but things are calm.

A few hours earlier, that wasn't the case. At around 3.30pm, I was with a group of roughly 2,000 Egyptians - young men and women, parents with their children, and elderly people - who made their way from Gameat al-Dowal street through Mohandiseen, across Zamalek, and into Tahrir Square. It wasn't long before State Security drove a truck through the crowd and blasted demonstrators with water. Within moments, however, a brave young man managed to climb on top of the truck and turn the water away. He was removed by plain-clothes security, but he succeeded in turning off the water.

Later, volleys of tear gas were fired into the crowd. They sent streams of white smoke through the air and billowed where they fell. Demonstrators ran from the attack - but they never went far. Despite the tear gas, the water, and falling darkness, Egyptians remained where they stood.

Throughout the march to Tahrir, demonstrators called to citizens watching from balconies: "Come, join us! Come out! Where are Egypt's people?"

Prominent opposition figure Gameela Ismail pleaded with bystanders through the entire march to join. One young woman hid behind a friend, another on a balcony smiled nervously and looked away, but an older veiled woman shrugged and stepped off the sidewalk and into the street.

A man wearing an Egyptian flag tied around his shoulders walked hand in hand with two young sons, with his wife and daughter before him.

While security has used tactics such as tear gas and hoses and many have gathered with sticks, the violence is not as bad as expected, and far from what it could be.

Rumors circulate the crowd in Tahrir that demonstrators in Alexandria and Mahalla have taken over the offices of the ruling National Democratic Party there. It is an extremely symbolic move - and the night is far from over.

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