14 March 2011

Those Other Egyptian Protests

Tahrir Square Signage

Over at Counterpunch, Esam Al-Amin breaks down key moments in the Egyptian revolution including this wonderful tactic: publicizing fictional protests while the real one(s) assembled:

“Since at least 2004, Egypt has witnessed many protests... In every case, the demonstrators were outnumbered by the security forces, which brutally cracked down on them, causing numerous injuries and arrests.

But the Tunisian revolution changed that equation in several ways. First, it inspired Egyptians beyond the activists or elites. Secondly, once the youth organizers decided to take to the streets on January 25, they outsmarted the security forces.

As a ruse, the youth released announcements for people to gather at certain landmarks and intersections knowing full well that massive security forces would be awaiting them there. Instead, they went in small groups to side streets in poor and middle class neighborhoods with no government agent presence to mobilize these areas to join the protests.

[One of the organizers recounts:] ‘I went to a street in Bulaq Dakrur (one of the poorest neighborhoods in Cairo), where I and a group of members from the movement intended to start protesting. At the same time, other members were doing the same thing in other areas. When we had assembled, we raised the Egyptian flag and began to chant slogans, and it was surprising when a large number of people joined us. This prompted us to take our demonstration down Gamat al-Dawal al-Arabia Street (main street). With increasing numbers joining us, we stopped for some time in front of Mustafa Mahmoud Mosque (major landmark), and then we led the march to Tahrir Square. We found several demonstrations coming from different areas towards this area, and thus we decided to occupy Tahrir Square.’

To the complete surprise of the security forces, the demonstrators reached Tahrir Square numbering over one hundred thousand, which they could neither control nor disperse. Despite the existence of thousands of security forces, this was a new situation that they had not experienced before.”