Chronicles of a Revolution I
Wednesday January 26th
Yesterday was incredible. I must admit that when I saw a Facebook event announcing that there would be a revolution on the 25th, I didn’t believe. I pictured just another “day of rage” like the many others we’ve had over the past few years. But yesterday was different. I wasn’t able to go so I sat glued to my TV screen and couldn’t believe my eyes, I’ve never seen Tahrir square so crowded! At one point later in the evening when things had cooled down, it seemed more like a festival than a protest.
Today, on the other hand, was quite a frightening experience. It’s not my first time at a protest. But it’s my first time to actually get hurt and to actually feel like a might get arrested. I keep thinking about activists that get arrested on a regular basis and still go to protests anyway knowing they’ll probably get picked up. They’re so brave. I left work at around noon and met a friend of mine so we could go to the protest together. Walked around for about an hour trying to find the protest, checking facebook and twitter for any details. Someone would tweet “the protest is in Ramses” so we’d run there and find nothing, and then someone else would tweet “protesters have now reached Tahrir” so we’d run back there and still find nothing. It was quite anti-climactic. Finally we managed to locate it at the lawyer’s syndicate, and the protesters were already cordoned off by a row of men in black.
We stood outside the cordon and started chanting along with the protesters inside the syndicate, but the police told us we can’t stand there, we could join the protesters inside the cordon, or leave. So we joined them. People were getting more heated, and every once in a while someone would start chanting “to the street!” and we’d start pushing against the police trying to take the protest out of the syndicate, and every time they would push us back. Finally, as another group of protesters had formed on the street and with us pushing the police from the inside and the other group pushing from the outside they were quickly overpowered. We broke out of the syndicate and stormed onto the sidewalk but immediately the police formed another wider cordon around us. My friend and I were once again outside the cordon and this time, they wouldn’t let us in. A group of us would try to enter from one end and the police would say go to the other end, and when we’d go there they’d say go back to where you were. So we decided to just chant on the street and if they wanted to force us to leave they could go ahead and try. We stood their chanting for a while and the next thing I know, the numbers have doubled and suddenly there’s a ton of people on the street outside the cordon! The people inside the cordon decided to join us by jumping over the fence that separates the sidewalk from the street (see video below).
Suddenly the police were dispersed, and as the crowds were getting larger and the chants louder, I could feel the tension in the air. Something was about to happen. Suddenly, the police charged at us with their sticks. Anyone they could reach was either beaten or arrested (also known as getting thrown into a van and whisked away to a secret location and getting illegally detained for a random period of time where you may be tortured and without anybody knowing where you are, for examples see this). Suddenly a massive number of people were all running away from the charging police, and a stampede occurred. Several people got trampled, myself one of them. For a few seconds I kept ordering myself to get up, but every time I tried I would get knocked down. Suddenly I felt someone grab my arm and pull me up, I looked at him and said “thank you”, he said “run before we get caught!” and so we continued running.
The crowd dispersed for a few minutes but then regrouped almost automatically. I realized my friend wasn’t next to me. I had a minor panic attack when I couldn’t find her. I was relieved to see her a few minutes later, apparently she’d been pushed into a store in which people were hiding. They locked the door and refused to let her out immediately because they were worried she would get arrested. After things had cooled down a bit they agreed to let her out.
As she was recounting this to me we heard a loud bang, I know it wasn’t tear gas because we didn’t feel any effects, so I’m guessing they were empty rounds or rubber bullets. Things continued to heat up and shortly thereafter, I had to leave as my parents were trying to reach me and did not know I was at the protest.