If only for a little while, the people of Alexandria have liberated their city from the police. Despite the American-made (see, we still do make things here!) tear gas that has showered them for the better part of a day, the working class of the city has found themselves in the surprising position of having defeated the police. Oh, to breathe such fresh air!
From the New York Times:
For one day, in this historic Mediterranean city, the protesters won outright.Sitting here, thousands of miles away, seeing the police daily enforce the dictatorship of capital in my own city, yet watching leaderless (or maybe, more accurately, 'widely leadered' or projectual), working class movements sweep away various dictators, large and small, one after the other, I can't help but long for the banner "Tunis, Alexandria, Phoenix" to hang from a liberated space somewhere soon. Sounds like war elephants.
Alexandria was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in the country on Friday as riot police officers fired tear-gas canisters and rubber bullets and protesters hurled paving stones in more than two hours of pitched battle.
In the end, the police capitulated in the face of too many protests around the city with too many determined demonstrators for them to contain. The police retreated, leaving the city in the hands of protesters for several hours, as police cars, the regional party headquarters and the provincial government office burned.
“There is no government in Alexandria now,” said Muhammad Ahmed Ibrahim, 32. “They are all in hiding.”
After darkness fell, soldiers in tanks and armored personnel carriers were welcomed with cheers in downtown Alexandria, perhaps a sign of Alexandrians’ relief that some semblance of order would be retained after the destruction of a day spent venting pent-up anger.
“The people set fire to the police station in Sharq,” said Abdullah Hassan al-Banna, 30, one of the demonstrators, referring to part of eastern Alexandria. “The people set tires on fire and threw them into the governorate” — the government building. “We pulled down all the posters of Hosni Mubarak,” Egypt’s president.
Late Friday, downtown Alexandria was choked with smoke that blotted out the sunset. Flames licked the sides of a downtown tram station.
One man stood on a police troop carrier holding up a giant Egyptian flag as police officers inside the vehicle smiled and waved their fingers through the grates.
“The people wanted to show their resistance to the regime, but I don’t think they had any idea they would overpower it,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, who observed the street fighting in Alexandria on Friday.
“For the first time in the history of the Mubarak regime, the capacity of the police was completely exhausted,” Mr. Bouckaert said. “The police state broke down today.”
Here in the US, a twitter spokesman writing an email response to a reporter's inquiry tried to wrap his little iNoggin around the cut off of the internet in Egypt. Speaking in terms reflecting a limited imagination perhaps even surprising for iExecs, he said, "A world without the Internet [sic] is unimaginable." Without an emoticon indicating irony or laughter, what am I to do with that? Like the pre-internet era is paleolithic? Don't we have a memory of this?
And this in the face of a wide-spread, word of mouth insurrection that despite the removal of the asocial media as a means of communication, still found hundreds of thousands of friends and neighbors pouring out on the streets together, doing battle with the cops and liberating their city from the hateful dictatorship's police.
One woman I heard interviewed on BBC in fact cited the lack of communication as the reason she went into the streets in the morning. No cell phone. No facebook. She had to go into the streets to see what was happening there. Twitter revolution? Not right now.
The word is, folks are going door to door tonight in Egypt, even as we speak, planning the next attack. It's blasphemy before the holy meme of the iRevolution, I know. And yet... what about the poor and working class in control of the Suez Canal. Watch the rich sweat...