Over the past few years, protests never attracted more than a couple of hundred people at best. There were tens of thousands on streets on Friday. The scene of chanting protestors filling main streets was euphoric. Change was near.
It was supposed to be a small step toward change. A scenario of police allowing Cairenes to march freely down the streets like January 25 wasn’t far off.
But unlike Tuesday, the violence started early on January 28.
Yet, in the midst of the teargas, water cannons, the rubber bullets and the pellets, it was the friendly spirit, the intent on keeping it peaceful and this never-seen-before fearlessness that shined through.
Protesters were offering vinegar and soda – said to reduce effect of tear gas – to strangers, now their brethren. Aside from chocking on teargas which left burning sensations in eyes and skin, the main fear was of having a canister fall on someone’s head. My head.
Police had no issue firing canisters right in the middle of any crowd. Few moved from the front lines with blood-covered faces. It became clear it wasn’t just a concern.
At times, taking a photo seemed like a hefty task. Run for your life if you are the front; leave any other thoughts for later.
Fearless young men picked up canisters and threw them away as soon as they hit the ground. It was those who led, who took it upon themselves to clear the way off the continuous flow of teargas for the thousands behind.
Alas, teargas wasn’t doing the trick. Water cannons, rubber bullet and pellets were the new weapon against protestors chanting “Peaceful” as they marched on. The anti-Mubarak chants were abundant, but that was a peaceful demonstration. Those who wanted to attack the riot police conscripts were prevented throughout the day.
These ‘peaceful’ intents ended with the first baton landing on my head and others’ as they turned back and ran. Panic reigned as people, drenched in pouring water, tried to retreat. I got tangled up and fell, luckily in a clear spot or I would have been fodder for shoes.
The scene of the pellets covering the bellies of other protesters and the man having his head stitched on the streets made it clear. This wasn’t a peaceful demonstration. It was a battle to reclaim back a country withering under the 30-year-rule of an autocratic regime. Egyptians were there to stay.
The fear that might have stopped them from confronting police or even demonstrating was overpowered with anger. They were now armed with stones. They took over armored vehicles and now they seem to be taking their country back.