Will be posting a report soon...
UPDATE: Here's the report....
I arrived in Talaat Harb Sq. few minutes after 7pm, and there were only 20 leftist activists standing in the square, with Palestinian and Lebanese flags, and no security presence.
Earlier in the day, there had been confusion about the protestâ€™s location.
There was a demo and a prayer organized at the Press Syndicate, that had been agreed up on by different political groups, but with the news trickling early morning on the Qana massacre, others felt there had to be some street action, and I learned from activist sources there was something to happen in Talaat Harb Sq.
I wasnâ€™t optimistic on my way to the demo. This space activists had in the â€œstreet,â€� in 2005 and up till March 2006, has been constantly under attack, and itâ€™s just an â€œachievementâ€� nowadays in itself to get few dozens to show up somewhere outside the â€œliberated zoneâ€� called Press Syndicate stairs.
My hunch, before I arrived, was that security would ban the Talaat Harb Sq. demo, and intimidate activists into shifting their demo location to the Press Syndicate, where they would demonstrate on the entrance stairs, encircled by security.
I was proven wrong, however. When I arrived in Talaat Harb Sq., there was hardly any security around. Just few traffic police officers and plainclothes ones were watching the activists from a distance.
In fifteen mins, the number grew to 50, and still no security forces, so the Leftist and Nasserist activists present, started chanting, led by Revolutionary Socialist campaigner Kamal Khalil. They chanted against Israel, US, and the Arab regimes. Among Arab rulers, Mubarak, the two Abdallahs of Jordan and Saudi had the lionshare of critical chants. The demonstrators also chanted in support of Lebanese resistance and Hizbollahâ€™s leader Hassan Nasrallah, calling for strikes against Tel Aviv and the expulsion of the US and Israeli ambassadors to Egypt.
As I was standing watching the demo, I came across two street children who were nearby. One was 14 and the other 16. Barefooted, dressed in rags, their faces covered in dirtâ€”you had your average Egyptian Oliver Twist. The two asked me what the demo was about, and we started a conversation. They kept on slurring the Egyptian police, and told me they were picked up from the street around a week ago, and got locked up in Abdeen Police Station. The 16-year-old said he was whipped by the officers, and showed me the wounds on his left arm.
By 7:35pm, the number of demonstrators had reached roughly 100, when the activists attempted marching down Qasr el-Nil Street. A line of plainclothes thugs appeared right away, and blocked them. Minor scuffles happened, and trucks carrying Central Security Forces started coming in.
A line of CSF troops was swiftly formed to encircle the demonstrators. Around a dozen demonstrators insisted on standing outside the circle, against the â€œpleasâ€� of police officers in the scene, who were calling activists by the name. Some activists ranted back, and stood in their place waving Hizbollah flags. The security did not seem in the mood of heavy-handedness. One of the protestors waving the Hizbollah flag was a Coptic leftist woman doctor I know.
As with almost all other demos, the regional causes got intertwined with local ones. The protestors chanted against Mubarak, Gamal, the raising of gas prices, police brutality, the emergency law.
About a dozen demonstrators also popped up on the balcony of Al-Ghad Party office, overlooking Talaat Harb Sq, and joined the demonstrators in chanting. Somehow a wireless mike showed up in Kamal Khalilâ€™s hand. It was connected to speakers in Al-Ghadâ€™s balcony that echoed the chants across the square.
Later, sometime after 8pm, the dozen or so crowd who were standing outside the CSF circle, swelled to 40, and ran across the street where Talaat Harbâ€™s Statue in the middle of the square.
Hundreds of CSF troops together with plainclothes thugs were mobilized, and they clashed with the activists. The scene was amok, with the demonstrators on the pavement clashing with the CSF troops to join others in the middle of the square, and those who are by the statue resisting being moved. The traffic came to complete halt for ten mins, with the plainclothes thugs bringing the situation under police control once more. This was probably the height of the demo. The total number of demonstrators were something between 150 and 200.
Some demonstrators who had taken part in the protest at the Press Syndicate came to Talaat Harb to join their colleagues. According to a reporter who attended the syndicate protest, around 500 protestors clashed with the CSF in front of the Press Syndicate, taking to Abdel Khaleq Tharwat St., blocking the traffic, and demonstrated in support of the resistance. The security generals present in the scene, I was told, decided to leave the protestors to pray, but then forced them back to the syndicate when the prayers were over. The protest went on for nearly an hour.
I left Talaat Harb by 9pm, as it was coming to an end. I was told it was all finished 20 mins later. Security allowed protestors to leave, and no arrests were reported.
On a final note, despite the clashes that happened with CSF, I donâ€™t think I was ever at a demo where I could feel sympathy coming from the conscripts. It has been sometimes spontaneous and at other times a dileberate strategy by leftist activists to chat with the CSF conscripts (not officers) in the demos, and try to win them to their cause. I heard CSF conscripts on a dzillion occasions talking with frustration to an activist, saying they did not like what they were ordered to do, and that they hated their officers as much as the activists did, but they were too helpless to do something about it.
Today, I saw with my own eyes at least six CSF conscripts who opened conversations with the protestors (and not the other way around). In addition to the usual ranting about their officers, they spoke bitterly against the government decrees to raise prices. They also cursed the US, and Israel, and one describe them as â€œones who care about nothing but killing Arabs and Muslims.â€� I was even more shocked when I heard one conscript telling an activist, â€œYes, I know what happened in Qana today. The f@#king killers! I saw what happened on Al-Jazeera.â€� It kinda shocked me that this peasant conscript had access to Al-Jazeera satellite channel. I wanted to ask him where did he watch Al-Jazeera, but couldnâ€™t as he was moved to join a battalion stationed on the other side. But to top it all, I overheard one conscript who was asking a protestor when was the next demo planned, and promised he would try to show up!!!!