February 8, 2011

Alan Chin in Cairo: A Crowded Square

What I noticed about this scene was how much of a stalemate there seems to be: the soldier is heavily armed and has all the power, but is utterly relaxed in his nonchalance, cigarette dangling from his trigger finger. And the boy could easily be be his kid brother. Were they just taking a moment to talk about soccer scores, or weighty issues debated? These are the anonymous participants of epic events: a student protester; an enlisted soldier.

Tahrir Square was very crowded today, after the relative quiet of the last two days. Google executive Wael Ghonim, released from detention and with the spotlight on him after an emotional interview posted last night on YouTube, came to the square and may be emerging as a movement leader. Tens of thousands of people listened to him and other speakers.

There were so many people arriving that long lines formed at the checkpoints manned by volunteers checking ID cards and searching for weapons. An organizer directs the pedestrian traffic from above a barricade.

On the political front, the government’s damage control efforts continued: A pay raise for public sector employees and a promise not to prosecute demonstrators were announced by Vice President Omar Suleiman. It’s a delicate tipping point between this show of responsiveness under pressure, and emboldening a popular movement hungry for real change.

–Alan Chin


To see entire BagNews series from Cairo: Middle East Uprising 2011

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