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Revolution in Egypt, Part 2
March 8, 2011 - Bill Ackerbauer
Today’s post is the second installment in “The Days of the Revolution,” Amgad M. Hussein’s firsthand account of his experiences during the recent revolution in Egypt. Amgad, who hails from Cairo, was an exchange student at Johnstown High School in 1989-90.
Friday, Jan. 28, 2011 — “The Friday of Wrath”
I got up all fired up about getting to Tahrir Square. What happened on the 25th didn’t exactly do what the regime intended; actually, it had the opposite effect. More people felt the need to move, do something, participate.
I met up with the guys at noon. This time, the group was larger, with lots of people from my neighborhood — about 20 of us. We went down in several cars, parked far from the square. We knew if we went all together as one group, we risked being attacked by the police bullies spread all over the downtown area. Heading to Tahrir, we met a man who handed us some Egyptian flags and wished us luck. It was really thoughtful.
Reaching Tahrir from El Qasr El Eany street, we were blocked by the troopers and the barricades put up by the police in all entrances to the square. By this time there was no mobile phone connection whatsoever and no internet still. If you got separated from your group, there would be no way to get in touch with them again. That didn’t make much difference, though, because we felt everyone was one group. Shouting and protesting with everyone, we demanded to enter Tahrir. We did, and the scenario was similar, only this time I’d say there were more than 1,500,000 people in Tahrir — quite a crowd. Unlike on the 25th, it wasn’t easy to divide the crowd. I started getting away from the smoke, but everywhere I went, there are attacks from the police using tear gas, rubber bullets and water hoses. Moving from one side street to another, I came to realize: “this is it — the revolution — we will do it.”
Breathing wasn’t easy with the tear gas everywhere. I found myself in the Sayeda Zienab area, which is about 3 or 4 miles from Tahrir. Everywhere I went there were more protestors, and still, I could smell the gas in the air. I was tired and had no money, since I left my wallet in the car. Feeling the need for some tea, I stopped at a café in one the small streets and ordered a cup of tea. I said that I need someone to pay for it because I didn’t have any money. You wouldn’t believe how many people wanted to buy me that cup of tea. People offered me food — “Anything you need, you guys are heroes.”
I had my tea and talked politics with the people at the café, then excused myself, thanking everyone and hearing them cheering for me while I left. Going out of that small alley, I went out onto the main street right next to the Sayed Zainab police station, surrounded by perhaps a few hundred people. The only thing standing between us and the police station was the troopers with their shields, helmets and sticks. Some of us would pick up the gas grenades, still smoking, and throw them back at the police.
I had been separated from everyone who came from Mokattam with me since the violence started in Tahrir, but then I saw two of them, Hany and Ahmed. Hany had been shot by a shotgun and he had pellet wounds in his shoulder, his side and his thigh, yet he was up and going. He’s a tough one. Ahmed had passed out and almost suffocated from the smoke.
I got to higher ground so I could see things. Oh my God. Looking towards our side, there were people for as far as I could see down that street. On the other side, there were not more than 100 troopers blocking the way. Suddenly all the troopers left, leaving the people facing the police station. The officers at the station went to the second floor and started shooting live ammunition at us. I swear I heard a few bullets whizzing by my ear, which scared the hell out of me. We carried the wounded to any vehicle available to be transferred to a hospital. Some people ran inside the station and set it on fire, and in minutes it was all burning. What a sight.
To be continued
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A blue police truck stands destroyed outside the Sayeda Zainab police station, a few minutes after the station attacked by protesters in Cairo on Jan. 28, "The Friday of Wrath." (Photo courtesy of Amgad M. Hussein)