The violence in Cairo â violence instigated by agents provocateurs hired by the Mubarak regime, is shocking and dismaying. After the people took to the streets en masse, and quietly and peacefully forced Mubarak to announce his eventual exit from power, to see those same protesters shot at, stabbed, beaten, run down on horseback and camelback, crushed by rocks, and burned by Molotov cocktails is inexpressibly sad.
Graeme Wood’s description of the fighting in Tahrir Square is heartrending: “Each side threw so many stones that they were practically unpaving downtown Cairo, and in moments when they were not throwing stones they were breaking them against the curb into smaller stones that they could throw further. â¦ The protesters pushed back the pro-Mubarak crowd. Some of their charges (it really looked like a Civil War battle charge designed to overrun an enemy position) were so intense that I feared for the pro-government crowd’s safety. That worry rapidly vanished. The pro-Mubarak group turned out to have great strategic depth, reaching all the way back to the Nile and beyond, and with sheer numbers it pushed forward, gradually rushing past the protesters and me. â¦Â a trickle of captured protesters came out, each surrounded by at least a hundred screaming Mubarak supporters, and being beaten so intensely that I couldn’t see their faces, only a circle of waving sticks and fists, raining down on whatever unfortunate was at the center.”
As the day rolled on, the agents provocateurs seem to have tired, and pro-democracy protesters fought back and forced the thugs from the streets, protecting those they capture and unmasking them as plainclothes police. This was inexpressibly powerful. The protesters who took the streets of Cairo, Alexandria, and Suez last week, seem to be holding those streets tonight, and doing so with the grace and honor you would expect from such a proud and honest people. There’s nothing I can do but hope against hope that their strength against this brutality, and the dignity with which they’ve comported themselves, will soften Mubarak’s heart, or at least convince the military to accept that their job is to protect the people of Egypt, not the bloody-handed regime that is holding the nation back.
Just as regular floods once fertilized the plains along the Nile and fed one of history’s greatest empires, this flood of democratic sentiment pouring through Egypt’s cities can only be to the nation’s (and the world’s) greater good, and can only do harm to those who stand in its way.