Egypt protests: Drew Storey shares his experiences
- January 27, 2011 4:20 PM |
- By Your Voice
Anti-government protesters scattered after police fired tear gas at them during a demonstration in downtown Cairo on Jan. 25. (Nasser Nasser/Associated Press)
Bio: Drew Storey, 25, works and lives in Cairo. Originally from the United States, Storey first arrived in Egypt about four years ago to finish his sociology degree and "unexpectedly fell in love with the place." He now works as an editor at an English language newspaper and plans to live there indefinitely. Storey was at the protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Jan. 25 and spoke with the CBCNews.ca community team over the phone about his experiences.
*Note: This interview has been edited for length
My story: I feel as though what's happening here is what's happening to my home -- I almost cried on Jan. 25.
There are protests here all the time. When [people] were talking about Jan. 25, me and lots of other people were like, "it's just another protest, it'll be broken up in a few hours, it won't be a huge turnout, and it'll just be the people that normally turn up."
It wasn't like that. It was wild.
I was at work [when it started] and went immediately afterward down to the square, especially because I lived right by there. At the time I showed up it was generally quite peaceful. People were spreading around different supplies - blankets, water - and there were several different chants going around. It was a gigantic gathering with thousands there. I'd say maybe five people had megaphones.
But eventually the police started to clamp down. They shot off one round of tear gas. It was very mild, and I think it was intentionally mild to gauge how the protesters would respond.
Then the police started to move their trucks forward and people were screaming, "come, come!" in Arabic. That's not something I've ever seen here. The police here are known to be quite brutal, so that's a testament to what the situation is like.
People started throwing empty water bottles at the truck and the police. At one point I was up at the front with the police in their riot gear and it was really interesting to see the interaction between all these people throwing water bottles and the police trying to decide whether to engage.
I remember ... these two police officers at the end of the group had this look of sympathy, like "please, just calm down." It was the most human I've ever seen a policeman here appealing to a civilian. I thought that was cool to see -- to see that some police are still human at their core and affected by this.
The police started shooting out more tear gas. I heard loud explosions. At first no one really budged. Then the first tear gas canister hit around the centre [of the square] and people started to clear the way.
And then, pretty much, the protesters started to take swings at the officers. They responded with their batons, and before I know it, they're shooting off tear gas left and right. People began lifting blocks - random chipped cement blocks - and slamming them to the ground to get rocks to throw at the police. They were wailing them. I'm sitting in the middle of this and debating whether to pick up a rock. Is this my fight or not? I decided not to. I'm not a politically active person. I've never really been in a protest, much less a serious one.
People were just getting hit left and right. Some [injured protesters] were being carried by five people as they fought off police hitting them batons. Eventually, [the police] were shooting off too much tear gas. I had brought a ski mask which I used to cover my face ... but it was getting to the point where I couldn't see which way I was going. I rushed to find out how to get out of this square.
I ran home, which was like a block away. There was tear gas all around the streets surrounding the square. I got into my flat and found that I had left the window open. There was actually more tear gas in my flat than on the streets I had been running in.
Are you participating in the protests? Do you plan on going on Friday?
The government cut almost all internet and cellphone data service early Friday. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter were used to spread information about the protests.
Egypt's four primary internet providers -- Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt, Etisalat Misr -- all stopped moving data in and out of the country at 12:34 a.m., according to a network security firm monitoring the traffic.
CBCNews.ca is looking for stories, photos and videos, if you've got them. (Please do not put yourself at risk to capture these reports). Your photos and video may be used on-air and in articles as part of CBC News Network's coverage. Here's how you can get in touch when internet access is restored.
Videos: Upload video here. Please do not add graphics or music to the clip.
Reports: You can also email your reports from the Egyptian protests to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Corrections and Clarifications
- An earlier version of this entry stated that Drew Storey arrived in Egypt 18 months ago to finish his sociology degree. In fact, Storey arrived in Egypt to finish his degree four years ago and returned to work and live there 18 months ago after spending time back in the U.S. The entry also stated that Storey had used a gas mask during the protests in Tahrir Square on Jan. 25. In fact, he had brought a cloth ski mask. Jan. 31, 2010 | 9:35 a.m. ET
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