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TAHRIR SQUARE CONFLICT November 22, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Middle East, North Africa.
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The protesters in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in Egypt are, it seems, attempting to take on the police and army with their rubber bullets and tear gas with stones.

The discipline and application of nonviolence has fallen away with the realization that the Supreme Council of Armed Forces while allowing elections due next week was going to preserve a veto power over the elected government.The protest resumed on Friday. Protesters have been throwing rocks. They seem to have been taking the casualties and the injuries. Yet there are no reports to suggest that the protesters are backing down.

Jack Shenker reports for The Guardian:

The marches and protests that followed last Friday attracted the largest crowds since Mubarak was toppled, an early indication that concern about the junta and scepticism of their heavily curated vision of democratic transition was beginning to go viral. As usual, the security forces – whose much-promised root-and-branch reform has proved as illusory as their claims of “admirable” self-restraint during the bloodshed this weekend – waited until numbers had dwindled before launching their assault the next morning.

They thought they were battering a rump, but instead the 200 or so demonstrators still camped out in Tahrir proved to be fuel for a fire which is now sweeping the nation.

By Sunday morning, following 24 hours of fierce street fighting and the conquest of Tahrir by revolutionaries, the furniture of the anti-Mubarak uprising was once again wheeled into place in the capital. Civilian checkpoints dotted the square, corrugated iron sheets were torn down for barricades, and the makeshift field hospital – the scraggiest, saddest and often most inspiring cog in the revolution’s street battles – was back in action, treating hundreds of youths ferried in by motorbike from the edge of no-man’s land, which lay just a couple of blocks away.

“We’ll stay here until we die, or military rule dies,” said 27-year-old Mahmoud Turg with a matter-of-fact intensity. One side of his face was bandaged because a rubber-coated steel bullet had hit his ear; another had carved a chunk out of his back. “Scaf must leave, because the people have seen through them,” added the political researcher. “It has taken a long time, but the mask has slipped.”

On the battlefront, order prevailed through the chaos. Scouts and lookouts took to the balconies with their faces wrapped in scarves against the gas; on their instruction waves of protesters surged forward towards the police lines hurling rocks and molotovs, only to be beaten back by a blitz of teargas canisters and a volley of “birdshot” pellet cartridges, almost always aimed at head height. Those staggering blindly towards safety would quickly be supported by those who had stayed behind, with rows of revolutionaries spaced out across the rubble-strewn street handing out tissues and firing short bursts of cooling fluids into burning eyes.

It’s a paradox of this year’s vast political upheavals across the Arab world that liberation struggles feel simultaneously so local and so global. As the sun began to set, other side streets around Tahrir took on the eerie quality of discarded warzones specked with flashes of ordinary life; two blocks away you could get a shisha – carefully balanced on the paving stones now ripped up and broken in the search for something to throw – while the occasional taxi, having taking a wrong turn, would sail by bewildered.

Except for the thuds and cracks in the air, one could imagine the violence was miles away, yet at the same time it had never felt as intimately close. Activists showed each other Twitter, Facebook and SMS updates from every stretch of the Nile, from Alexandria to Aswan, indicating that all four corners of Egypt were once again in revolt. Others held up teargas cartridges with the name and address of a Pennsylvania company stamped across it; some wondered aloud whether protesters in Cairo and America were being hit by weaponry produced by the same firm.

When the military attack finally came, dissolving once and for all any lingering boundaries in protesters’ minds between the army on the one hand and the hated black-clad riot police that symbolised Mubarak’s security apparatus on the other, it was brutal and ephemeral. Guns were fired in the air, civilians were beaten on the ground; several soldiers appeared to drag lifeless bodies – unconscious or dead, no one could tell – towards small piles of rubbish by the roadside.

The SCAF are clearly intent on holding onto the reins of political power through the use of police and military violence. Whereas the protesters have been encouraged and emboldened by the successful removal of Mubarak. In the aftermath of this development is not likely that the elections will proceed.So what has happened to the nonviolent protest and international solidarity?

PRESCRIPT:
Noah Chomsky prior to the emergence of conflict in the streets was sceptical concerning support for the demos from certain external powers with an interest in the region:

UPDATE:

ABC reports the SCAF refused the resignation of the prime minister and cabinet. They are determined that the November 28 elections will go ahead.

Juan Code describes the situation in Egypt as rudderless, with the suggestion the military might call on former head of IAEA, Mohammed Elbaradei, to form an interim government. There is more to this story.

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