Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Protests Spread

The first thing I remember about Friday morning was surprise. We had no cell phone service and no internet. It was surprising just how cut off we felt from the rest of the world. We did have an antique (literally) phone that worked through the land line, which was not shut off. We could call people locally through that.

This was supposed to be Paul's parents' last day in Cairo. So in the morning we did what everyone does on their last day, we went souvenir shopping. There were not many people out on the streets, but they were by no means empty. And the shops were open. When we saw our first protesters they went marching along an overpass that crossed the street we were on. They were chanting loudly, but walking peacefully. It took about a minute for them to pass. Later, at lunch, Paul's father came to me after looking at the TV and said, “Wow, they really came out for this today.” He was referring to the news showing downtown filling with people.

Before long we were back at home, glued to the news. People had filled the downtown areas, especially Tahrir Square, the place where Paul and his parents had been just last week to see the museum. At some  point, I remember reports the police were using tear gas. Then I remember reports that the police were firing rubber bullets at protesters. We could go out on our balcony and could see smoke from downtown. Soon it was dark. Down the street from us we could hear a lot of commotion.  Then from somewhere close, we started to hear gunfire. And we could hear a big crowd of people. The TVs were showing videos of the protesters trying to push police trucks into the Nile. Reports were that the people had become very angry with the police. Then, down the street, we could see the crowd we had been hearing, illuminated by a fire. Our local police station, and the trees surrounding it began to burn. We could see throngs of people running around it, throwing things at the building. We had begun to regularly update our boss Peter, and we called him once again.

It is difficult to explain why the people would attack the police. There could be many reasons. Whatever the reason, Friday night, the people of our community expressed their anger as a powerful group. I remember as went to bed that night Paul said, “If I were a police man I just wouldn't show up to work tomorrow.” With this thought in our heads, listening to the protests continuing on our street, we tried to sleep.

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