The following information is from a mix of first-hand experience in Tahrir Square (9:15-10:45) and second-hand reports from multiple sources. Hyperlinks are available to essential information.
Tonight saw some of the worst violence since the Egyptian Revolution began on January 25th. The Daily News Egypt is reporting that 24 protestors have been killed and 212 injured. The military has imposed a curfew on Downtown Cairo.
Egypt’s Coptic Christian community organized tonight’s demonstration at Maspero after a church in Aswan, Egypt was partly burnt last week. From the beginning of the evening, there was a large security presence.
Then, at approximately 8 o’clock, news sites and eyewitnesses started reporting violence between the Copts and the security forces. Before long, a few deaths and dozens of injuries were reported, though the details remained (and still remain) uncertain. Democracy Now! senior producer Sharif Kouddous tweeted “I was there when it began. Some soldiers got pushed a bit. Then they attacked, beating people and sound of sustained gunfire filled the air.”
At 9:15, large crowds started to gather and loiter around Tahrir Square, not far from Maspero. Soon shots of tear gas could be seen and heard in front of the Egyptian Museum on the North side of Tahrir Square.
By 9:45, crowds had increased in size, and riot police closed off Talaat Harb street, forming lines on both sides of the street facing down protestors. At the same time, white pick up trucks with wagons in the back dropped off military backup. Soon enough, the riot police and army tried to shepherd the Talaat Harb mass through the square.
That only made things worse. Soon, the army and the demonstrators were engaged in a drawn out chase throughout the maze of streets surrounding Tahrir Square. Troops would fire tear gas and wave clubs forcing crowds down one street, only to emerge five or ten minutes later coming back down another. Put simply, there were far too many entrances and exits to the square for the army and police to seal completely. Still, they tried to bully the crowds, which included a shocking amount of very young children under the age of 10, out of the square and into the Metro entrances by firing tear gas in front of them.
Tonight’s events were tragic. Regardless of what state tv broadcast throughout the evening, the only dividing line visible Downtown was between Egyptian civilians and the security forces that now govern their country.
The Egyptian Revolution has been changed forever: the army has fired on the people.
Photos: Tahrir Square, Cairo – October 9. Thousands of Egyptians come face to face with riot police and army personnel after violence erupted during protests in Maspero held in solidarity with the Coptic community. Security forces closed Talaat Harb street completely, beginning hours of unsuccessful attempts to disperse and quiet the crowds. Police and military officers repeatedly fired tear gas around the square, hoping to shepherd demonstrators through the area and into the Metro stations.