Tahrir Square: Where Egypt stood up

Ahram Online, Wednesday 26 Jan 2011

Police used tear gas canisters, water canons and rubber bullets against thousands of Egyptians protesting Tuesday in Tahrir Square

After hours of struggling to disperse the thousands of defiant protesters who had congregated in Tahrir Square since midday, security forces resorted to firing rubber bullets, tear gas canisters and water cannons just after midnight.

According to the Front to Defend Egypt Protestors yesterday’s protests accross the country left “three dead in Suez, tens injured and hundreds arrested.” They also said that injured protesters who sought medical attention in the hospital were questioned. Another protester from Suez died from his injuries Wednesday morning.

Yesterday Egypt witnessed nationwide protests with the largest taking place in Tahrir (Liberation) Square in the centre of the city where thousands of protesters gathered from around 3:00 pm. Most of those who congregated in Tahrir Square had marched there from other protests in the city taking place in Shubra, Dokki, Imbaba and Mohandeseen.

While the area was heavily cordoned off by riot police with Central Security Forces trucks surrounding the square, the protestors stood their ground and chanted for social justice and denouncing the government.

Protesters distributed a statement titled “The nation wants the downfall of the regime”, with four demands around in which they asked for the president to step down, the Nazif government to resign, parliament dissolved and the formation of a national unity government.

An hour later, increasingly frustrated riot police firing tear gas canisters into the crowd and spraying water cannons. Angry protesters began throwing back rocks at the police, causing the tension to escalate. Clashes erupted and protesters managed to damage a central security car which led to the police beating the protesters with batons. The escalating violence led shop owners to lock their shops for fear of attack and the government sent policewomen to the square to try and control female protestors. The police also closed Sadat metro station to stop the congregation from expanding.

The situation in the square calmed down temporarily, but when demonstrators moved towards the Parliament building, security forces systematically beat them back with tear gas, filling the square with noxious fumes. At the same time the phone network collapsed leaving protesters unable to check up on one another. Many protesters, warned in advance to expect tear gas, came prepared with face masks doused in vinegar.

At 7:00 pm, an air of calmness covered the square as protesters, now completely cordoned off from every angle, sat down and discussed whether they will spend the night in the square. At 10:00 pm protesters began distributing water, food and blankets and creating campfires and building a tent in the middle of the square.

With the security forces under orders to clear the square, at half past midnight they fired dozens of tear gas canisters  at the protesters and chased them into side streets with batons.

Security forces positioned on the 6th of October Bridge fired at protesters below with rubber bullets. Two hours later, police continued to chase protesters through Ramses Square and protesters tried to storm the EzbekiyaPolice Station. Several small protests were held in other areas including Shubra and Rod El-Farag and police in civilian clothes roamed the street questioning pedestrians.

A security official told MENA that tear gas was fired at the protesters because they refused to move from the square despite repeated warnings from the police. The official added that the protesters, who kept calling for more people to join in the demonstration, were not peaceful but were perpetrating acts of thuggery and also impeded the flow of traffic. He claimed that they also burned a police car in Abdel Moneim Riyad Square, trying to set a public building on fire on the Nile Corniche and damaged several cars in the streets.

The official added that yesterday’s chaotic protests led to the death of one policeman and injured another 85. He also insisted that the number of protesters in the square did not exceed ten thousand and dwindled to five thousand by the end of the day.

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