The streets of Egypt this “Angry Friday” are filled with people and police – tear gas and smoke.
Al Jazeera is reporting that protesters have taken control of the main square in Suez.
Madness in central Cairo. Tear gas everywhere police truck drives on 6 October Bridge randomly firing tear gas at point blank range
Massive cloud of tear gas at Zamalek end of 6 October Bridge..into the Nile. Protesters continue to chant “Down Down Mubarak.
ElBaradei has taken refuge in a mosque: http://www.almasryalyoum.com/en/news/breaking-police-clash-elbaradei-crowd
The departure of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s regime is “imminent,” said prominent opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei minutes after a crowd of protesters pulled him to safety inside a mosque today while thousands protested outside in the face of police who shot tear gas, water, red burning liquid and drove their vehicles into the crowd.
“This kind of violence will be counterproductive, and it will backfire in their face, if not today, tomorrow,” said ElBaradei, his clothes soaking and his mouth and nose covered with a blue mask to protect from the gas.
“I used to call for a transitional period by peaceful and democratic methods, but the regime is closing that door. I have no doubt that the people will win.”
From the Guardian live reports:
Peter Beaumont reports on a pitched battle between police and protesters on the Kassr Nile bridge. “It is white with gas, but the protesters are pushing the police back,” he says. Like Jack Shenker and Human Rights Watch, Peter has also seen signs of protesters trying persuade police to join them.
Al Masry Al Youm reports:
Police reportedly refused orders to throw tear gas at protesters in Alexandria.
As you watch the news from today, be wary of claims of violence by the protesters. Egyptian official media was beginning last night to claim that the protests were infiltrated by “extremists” (no link possible to Al Ahram due to internet shut down) and a reporter for Al Jazeera noted last night that:
But already I have started getting reports from citizen journalists that government-hired thugs will make sure that nothing about tomorrow is peaceful. They say that in several low-income parts of Cairo and Alexandria, government-hired thugs were seen to be splashing petroleum over parked cars. This to prepare for protests in which they’ll light vehicles on fire when the time is right for them.
They’ve also heard rumours that the intelligence services will release a separate group of thugs under the name Akhwan al- Haq, or Brothers of Truth, a trumped-up extremist group, that will charge through the streets with swords and caustic acid to splash on the protesters — thus placing all the blame of a peaceful uprising gone violent on a certain kind of Islamic extremism.
Similar reports of Mubarak sponsored thugs starting fires and spreading petrol have been circulating on twitter and blogs. . . .
While events in Tunisia clearly inspired the Egyptian uprising, this movement has been brewing for quite a while and the murder of Khaled Said last spring is seen by many Egyptians as a turning point. This video tells more:
And what is the size of the “police” force Mubarak has at his disposal?
The number of police personnel rose from 150,000 in 1974 to more than a million in 2002. Its percentage of state employment, meanwhile, rose from 9 to 21 percent during the same period, notes Soliman.
[In 2009] the Egyptian Interior Ministry commanded 1.7 million employees, including 850,000 policemen and interior ministry staff; 450,000 Central Security Force troops; and 400,000 secret police…
Along with his comments on Bradley Manning, guess what else DoD spokesman Geoff Morrell told us Wednesday:
…But we actually this week are hosting senior Egyptian military leaders at the Pentagon for our annual bilateral defense talks, referred to at the Military Cooperation Committee, which is chaired jointly by Assistant Secretary of Defense Sandy Vershbow and Lieutenant General Sami Anan, the chief of staff of the Egyptian armed forces. So that’s just an example of how engaged we are with the Egyptians, even as these developments have taken place on the streets in Cairo and elsewhere…
So just what has the Obama administration’s engagement with Egypt been like? Let’s look at the aid we provide – a very concrete measurement.
Since its 1979 peace deal with Israel, Egypt has become the biggest recipient of US military aid after Tel Aviv, receiving nearly $36 billion in military assistance in annual installments of $1.3 billion.
From 4/19/2010 on Obama’s cuts to non-military aid:
The reductions were as much as 50 percent, said the report, which drew criticism that President Barack Obama is easing off pressure on President Hosni Mubarak in return for his support of US foreign policy in the Middle East and the peace process with Israel.
Current US aid to Egypt stands at US$1.55 billion, of which US$250 million is for non-military purposes.
Let’s see – that leaves $1.3 billion for Mubarak in military aid -– like all those tear gas canisters and bullets.
And don’t forget part of that $250 million goes to support the “Qualified Industrial Zones,” factory zones producing products for markets like the US – where the US Department of State is proud to note 10.5% of the inputs of these products originate from Israel.
Please make calls today to the White House and the Egyptian Embassy -– demand safety for the protesters and an end to military funding to Mubarak.
White House 202-456-1111,
Egyptian Embassy 202-895-5400
9:43 EST – Egyptian State TV – and now MSNBC – are reporting that ElBaradei is under house arrest while Al Masry is reporting he has been told by police he is not allowed to leave the mosque where he is sheltering.
9:51 EST – We are all Khalid Said is reporting:
Alexandria, Suez, Damanhour, Monoufeya centers are under protesters control.
Protests start in the tourist resourt Hurghada and the nice bit: Foreigners and tourists are joining protesters in the streets calling on Mubarak to go… …
That’s a physical international support.
While reporter on Al Jazeera reports from Alexandria:
I can see policemen running away of Zuez with thousands of protesters in the middle of the city are in full control on everything including police cars.
CNN crew had camera seized by Egyptian police and four French journalists have been held by police.
10:08 EST Al Jazeera shows people cheering the arrival of an army truck – “there’s a great deal of animostity to police security forces” but not towards the army. Crowds have been calling for the army to “come and protect us” Unclear yet what the army will do.
Reporter with ElBaradei says police cordoned off the mosque so people could not leave and fired tear gas at the people. Mosque was under siege for several hours and there were injuries.
10:25 EST CNN confirms the military has been called in and are on the streets of Cairo.
Notice – no word from the White House except that Obama has asked for frequent briefings.
10:30 EST Al Jazeera has just reported that Egyptian State media has announced there is a curfew beginning in 30 minutes. That is 6PM Cairo time.
The Guardian reports:
3.12pm: Following up from the previous update, al-Jazeera just showed pictures of protesters jumping and cheering beside what appeared to be an army armoured vehicle in Cairo with the occupants in the vehicle not responding in any kind of negative fashion. It’s too early to get carried away but al-Jazeera was suggesting this could be a sign that the army’s allegiance is with the people.
Let’s just hope the hopes of the people are not misplaced.
3.05pm: in Cairo are calling for the army to side with them against the police, Reuters reports:
Egyptian protesters in Cairo chanted slogans calling for the army to support them, complaining of police violence during clashes on Friday in which security forces fired teargas and rubber bullets. “Where is the army? Come and see what the police is doing to us. We want the army. We want the army,” the protesters in one area of central Cairo shouted, shortly before police fired teargas on them.
Al Jazeera commenters note that the arrival of the military on the streets of Cairo is very worrying while CNN is showing what looks like a disabled army vehicle. Ben Wedeman is live on CNN saying the protesters have been peaceful by and large, chanting and singing then set upon by police and that some protesters then respond. “The great majority of the protesters are peaceful.”
Al Jazeera announces that Egyptian State media has announced there is a curfew beginning in 30 minutes.
10:35 EST State Security has entered the building where AL Jazeera is located – concern they may try to halt the live feeds from Cairo.
At the same time, Al Jazeera shows protesters performing evening prayers on the streets of Cairo.
10:42 EST Mubarak expected to make a statement in a few minutes.
Al Jazeera Cairo is still on air but security is still in building –
10:45 EST also reporting increasing numbers of police arriving on the October 6 bridge, a major protest location. Concern that things will get very bad as curfew goes into effect in 15 minutes.
10:54 EST US State Dept statement via Twitter: @pjcrowley
Events unfolding in #Egypt are of deep concern. Fundamental rights must be respected, violence avoided and open communications allowed.
Al Jazeera in Cairo – police knocking on door, so far still on air live.
11:05 EST– Al Jazeera is reporting large crowd moving towards the bridge, scenes of protester dancing on top of a police van on the bridge – clearly the curfew is being ignored.
Al Jazeera being told to stop showing scenes of protest but as of now still on live.
Still waiting for Mubarak to speak – and to see what military does as night falls.
11:15 EST AL Jazeera reporter in Alexandria – On highway people were trying to rush home for the curfew but now in the streets, people are marching defiantly – the chants are immensely loud and strong that she’s broadcasting.
Police van on fire on October 6 bridge – reports that military may replace the police, reported moving into Suez – reporter saw 5 tanks moving towards center of Suez. Suez Al Jazeera reported said people defeated police in minutes, state security clearly unable to contain protesters earlier – now the tanks come in. Total blackout on technology so cannot send pictures.
Reports that tear gas firing has resumed and protests heading towards Liberation Square.
Al Jazeera Reporter in Cairo – cloud of smoke they believe coming from NDP headquarters – that’s Mubarak’s party HQ.
11:30 EST Gunfire – burst of massive explosions heard on Al Jazeera Cairo, helicopters overhead but loud chants of protesters still clear over the gunfire. The chants just seem to be getting louder.
11:37 EST Smoke is billowing around NDP HQ, sounds of chants keep getting louder. Heavy gunfire towards center of city.
Still now word from White House – CNN reported Obama being briefed frequently and “received a special memo” but no statement.
11:50 EST 11:45 EST Reuters reports people are climbing onto tanks and Peter Beaumont of the Guardian reports tanks on streets of Cairo but says “unclear whose side they are on”
CNN thinks it is news that Robert Gibbs at WH is retweeting his message last night of “concern” for rights of the people in Egypt – this is the same he sent last night.
“Very concerned about violence in Egypt – government must respect the rights of the Egyptian people & turn on social networking and internet”
Al Jazeera reports protesters lining up for final evening prayer in the streets.
Noon EST oon – As protesters finish prayer, they resume demonstrations and tear gas is shot at them.
No sign police are present according to Al Jazeera – this section of Cairo seems to belong to the protesters but gunfire is still heard sporadically.
Al Jazeera says Army opened fire when protesters climbed onto tanks. No word of casualties yet.
12:15 EST Sec of State Clinton: We continue to monitor the situation carefully and are deeply concerned by the violence of the security forces and call on the government to rein in the security forces. Calls on protesters to be peaceful as well. Calls for end to internet blackout Protests prove there are deep grievances and violence will not make greivances go away. As a partner, we strongly believe the Egyptian government must begin immediately social, economic reforms. We want to partner with the Egyptian people and their government. Leaders need to respond to people’s aspirations. (paraphrased broadly)
As Al Jazeera says this is mild public language.
CNN has scenes of protesters encircling an army truck but not attacking it – they are asking for protection of the army.
12:30 EST Reports coming in from cities across Egypt, massive demonstrations in each. Army deployed but still uncertainty of what they will do.
Protesters have attempted to seize the Foreign Minitry building – no confirmation of result yet. Gunfire heard.
12:45 From Twitter:
Al Arabiya breaking: Protestors are demanding that the Egyptian Army back their cause. Chants of “We will go hand in hand”
The curfew has been announced now for the whole country – but by all reports, more people are heading into the streets as the police seem incapable of enforcing it
Meanwhile unconfirmed reports like this circulate:
@alaa Alaa Abd El Fattah
an agent of the police infiltrated the protest and incited protesters into a fight my mom tried to intervene and then disappeared #Jan25
Unconfirmed reports of fights between military and police according to Al Jazeera now. Military are moving toward Ministry of Defense and Radio and Television Building – no word yet of their plans as those locations are site of massive protests. Egyptians flags seen being waved by soldiers.
12:48 ESTCNN reporting from the Information Ministry building that there are chants of “the Military and the People are one” and the military officers speaking calmly with them’
12:52 ESTFrom the Guardian:
The latest from Alexandria from Peter Bouckaert, of Human Rights Watch:
The army has deployed in Alexandria but atmosphere is calm. Soldiers are talking to protestors. Confirmed that Alexandria governorate and many police stations burned down.
As demonstrations continue, Al Masry Al Youm reports:
Witnesses saw demonstrators cleaning up the streets of Downtown which were filled with stones, papers and fire remnants.
From Alexandria reports people have warmly greeted the military.
Rumours the Israeli Cairo embassy evacuated via helicopter are circulating.
Muslim Brotherhood who stress they are “not not leading the demonstrations, only participating as part of Egyptian people” on US response:
US in denial! Clinton still betting on Mubarak to reform instead of stepping down
Guardian quotes AP report that Obama has convened his national security team.
1:35 EST Al Jazeera is now showing stunning video of protesters in Cairo greeting the military in their tanks – and soldiers waving Egyptian flags in response. From their vantage point in Cairo, the streets are quieting down but flow with traffic.
Reuters now reporting that protests happened in Jordan as well.
Islamists, leftists and trade unionists gathered in central Amman Friday for the latest protest to demand political change and wider freedoms.
A crowd of at least 3,000 chanted: “We want change.”
Reports circulating that Mubarak will not speak live now, will tape a statement or may not do a speech at all. Hmmm….
3:00PM EST I will be signing off for a few hours but back this evening with more on today’s events. Thanks to everyone for following along and sharing the amazing news.
One last piece of news, this from Al Jazeera’s liveblog:
Time magazine’s Karl Vick pulls in the first reaction from Israel that’s not a “no comment.” A minister in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government tells Vick that Israel believes Egypt’s security forces will be able to suppress the protesters. “We believe that Egypt is going to overcome the current wave of demonstrations, but we have to look to the future,” he said. While it would be better if Egypt were a democracy, since “democracies do not initiate wars,” the minister said, “I’m not sure the time is right for the Arab region to go through the democratic process.”
It looks to me like neither the US nor Israel will decide what happens next. The Egyptian people want to chose for themselves. Let’s pray they have the chance.
The best continuing source of reliable information has been the Al Jazeera live stream at http://www.livestation.com/ as well as Al Jazeera’s liveblog where they are also posting video clips and amazing photos.
On Twitter, following #Jan25 will give you updates but remember that Egyptians are blocked from accessing it.
[Image credit: http://www.artificialeyes.tv/blog/2#]