Demonstrations continue in Egypt this week, as protesters take to the streets to voice their opposition to President Hosni Mubarak. Crowds of dissenters, in some cases 10,000 strong, are clashing with police forces in Cairo, Suez, Alexandria, and other cities. As police use tear gas and water cannons, protesters respond by throwing rocks and starting fires; there have been at least seven deaths this week, and up to 1,000 arrests. The Egyptian government has moved to suspend Internet and cell phone service across the country, in order to make it more difficult for people to organize. Meanwhile, the crisis has left the U.S. in a delicate position, since Mubarak is an important ally of American interests in the region. Here are takeaways from the latest reports:
Protests on a Historic Scale David Kirkpatrick and Alan Cowell for The New York Times report that on Friday, "tens of thousands of demonstrators" across Egypt came "pouring from mosques after noon prayers and clashing with police who fired tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons ... A crowd of at least 10,000 people moved east from Cairo's Mohandeseen neighborhood, trying to reach the central Tahrir Square that has been an epicenter of protest. The demonstrations were on a scale far beyond anything in the memory of most residents."
Contrasts Between Violence and Peace Shaimaa Fayed and Yasmine Saleh report for Reuters that "in Alexandria, protesters overran police lines and torched police trucks ... In several cities, protesters stormed the offices of the ruling National Democratic Party, witnesses reported. In Damietta, on the north coast, protesters ransacked the local council offices." Yet, they go on to note, "in some parts of Cairo, protests were peaceful. Dozens of people prayed together on one road. In Giza, on the city outskirts, marchers shook hands with the police who let them pass peacefully."
- Religion Interrupts a Heated Moment Kirkpatrick and Cowell describe a memorable scene: "Almost incredibly, a more than two-hour pitched street battle ended with protesters and police officers shaking hands and sharing water bottles on the same street corner where minutes before they were exchanging hails of stones and tear-gas canisters were arcing through the sky. Thousands stood on the six-lane coastal road then sank to their knees and prayed."
Is the State Making the Violence Worse? Joby Warrick for The Washington Post notes that President Obama has cautioned both the Egyptian government and the Egyptian people against resorting to violence. But, Warrick goes on to say, "authorities' violent reaction to protesters in recent days has radicalized the opposition while panicking the country's financial markets, sending stocks and the value of the Egyptian pound to new lows. Further violence during planned protests this week could deepen the chaos and make it harder for the country to regain any semblance of stability in the near future."
Egyptians Feel Stuck, Disenfranchised In a human-interest story for The Washington Post, Griff Witte explores the sense of frustration many Egyptians have with their government. "For many it came down to this: a pervasive sense that the world has passed Egypt by, that money and power have become hopelessly entrenched in the hands of the few and that if the country is ever going to change, it has to do it now." Witte quotes Abdel Zaher Dandarwi, a lawyer who's taken part in the protests: "The elections are fraudulent. The people in power monopolize all the resources. There are no jobs. There's no health care. And I can't afford good schools for my children."
A Bad Place to Be a Journalist The Associated Press reports that four French journalists covering the Cairo protests were arrested and later released. Elsewhere in Cairo, police confiscated a CNN camera and reportedly "threatened to beat" the journalists. Earlier this week, Jack Shenker, a correspondent for The Guardian, was beaten by police, loaded into a van alongside dozens of other protesters, and driven out to the edges of Cairo, where he and his fellow detainees escaped.