The president’s speech late Tuesday night created a split that was evident on Wednesday morning.
Those in Tahrir said that lives lost prevented them from leaving. Mubarak gave promises, not decisions. But for others outside, the president has made unprecedented concessions. Life should go back to normal.
My concerns about this worrying split in opinion were quashed by midday. The streets that raged with support for demonstrators for eight days – except for those who wanted to go back to work so they can eat – suddenly had people chanting “Long Live Mubarak.”
“Yes we want the demonstrations to end but I would never chant for Mubarak,” a man told me on the bridge overlooking central Cairo.
I saw a truck carrying pro-Mubarak protesters heading to downtown. The scene was reminiscent of elections, when state-run businesses send their employees to vote for the ruling party’s candidates.
But what I thought would be merely provoking demonstrations turned to be an organized attack of plain-cloth police and thugs on those camped in Tahrir for 8 days.
It was brutal, more than Friday and Saturday. Tahrir has been kept free of any weapon-like material; protesters wanted to keep it peaceful. Unarmed, they were belted with rocks but eventually responded to fend themselves. It turned ugly as the Pro-Mubarak people, at one point on horses and camels, used Molotov cocktails.
Hundreds were injured and people died.
Hopefully, the Wednesday carnage would be the squirming of a fleeing dictator.
This ran in Italian in the Corriere Della Sera.