I was at Tahrir Square in Cairo yesterday, February 1. Tahrir Square is the site of the 'Million Person March'. I saw hundreds of thousands of people there, maybe a million, seeking the resignation of President Mubarak.
This was the third and by far the largest of the anti-Mubarak protests I have witnessed in person. The protest was completely peaceful with every effort to insure that things stay peaceful. There were checkpoints to enter Tahrir Square, where the protest was held, with civilians checking ID's and searching bags to insure no weapons were brought into the square.
Unfortunately, as I write this blog, there is horrible violence happening in Tahrir Square that I am watching live on Al Jazeera's English station, CNN, and Euronews. The thousands of anti-Mubarak protesters still in the square (many of whom had stayed there all night) were met by groups of "pro-Mubarak" protesters coming from different points to the square at the same time, some of whom news reports said came armed with rocks and steel bars.
CNN showed a video of pro-Mubarak forces charging into the square on horses and camels. The CNN video showed a couple of the riders were pulled off and beaten by the anti-Mubarak protesters. Euronews reported that pro-Mubarak forces on the tops of buildings were throwing cinder blocks off the tops of buildings down on protesters below. Al Jazeera said furniture was being thrown off the rooftops.
The reporter just said she saw a couple men from the pro-Mubarak forces grab one of protesters in Tahrir Square and drag him to a place next to a military tank where they beat him severely. The reporter said that though the tank was right there, the military did not intervene.
Some of the pro-Mubarak forces broke windows on a few of the army vehicles and climbed in to try to drive into the square.
EuroNews and Al Jazeera news reported it was suspected that security forces were involved with the pro-Mubarak forces. Reporters commented that the violent events in Tahrir Square this afternoon seemed well-orchestrated with pro-Mubarak forces all coming toward the square at once from different directions and people already positioned on rooftops. One CNN reporter just said that some of the pro-Mubarak protesters were carrying police ID's.
There have been small pro-Mubarak demonstrations happening periodically both in Cairo and elsewhere (-- I saw one in Alexandria on the news last night after President Mubarak's speech). Jeff, Cameron and I saw a pro-Mubarak demonstration in Maadi earlier today composed of about 100 people marching through the street chanting. It was peaceful. It was nothing like the violence unleashed in Tahrir Square today.
It was reported that a clinic was set up near Tahrir Square for the many people injured this afternoon. It was described by one CNN reporter as a melee.
It's all very sad. The death toll even before today was up to 150 since protests began last Tuesday. CNN just reported there were more than 400 people injured this afternoon in the square.
Another mass anti-Mubarak demonstration was planned for this Friday. The CNN reporter just said that the anti-Mubarak protesters still in Tahrir Square are saying they will stay there until they die if needed, waiting for President Mubarak to resign.