After four days of mass protests “calling for the departure of despotic President Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power since 1981,” the Egyptian government has disabled access to the internet and cell phone service. The move is apparently in response to the mass protests – which many have predicted would be the biggest this week – planned for today after Friday prayers, and seems to have coincided with the release of the following video of a young protester getting shot by the police.
Friday prayers are scheduled at noon, and it’s already well past that time in Egypt. As of around 11:30 AM in Egypt, CNN’s Ben Wedeman reported via landline phone (which remains functional) that the streets are filled with riot police. Other reports from Cairo detail the scene further, describing plainclothes policemen “dousing parked cars with gasoline” with the plan to burn them and blame it the protesters in order to provide the government impetus to begin using violent quelling tactics.
Also, there are rumors that thugs have been hired to attack protesters with knives/swords. The rumors could be attempts to scare potential protesters from participating.
Within seconds of Friday prayers finishing, teargas and “sound bombs” fired at protesters in Cairo and Alexandria. City is like a “war zone”…
Whatever is ‘going’ to happen in Egypt today is in fact happening as I write this. Prayers have already finished. That the Egyptian government has in effect isolated its populace from the outside world could mean that something very bad is going to take place. Seems like this situation is analogous to watching someone taking their dog into locked, soundproof house in a crowded neighborhood to beat the shit out of it, the whole time knowing exactly what’s going on in there.
If you’re interested in this story, it will be unfolding throughout the day. Some journalists have managed to get a few pieces of news through, and the Guardian is posting live updates on the situation every ten minutes or so. There’s also a reddit thread that’s being updated consistently (in which some redditors are calling for the boycott of telecommunication companies, such as Vodaphone, that have willingly shut off their services in response to the demands of the Egyptian government) and a Guardian article that deals with the shut off more completely.
A final side-note, Vice President Joe Biden has been quoted that President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak “is someone he knows ‘fairly well’ and does not consider to be a dictator. But the ‘time has come for President Mubarak to begin to move in the direction of being more responsive to some of the needs of the people out there.'”
Update: Telling news from the Guardian’s live feed (protesters are winning?):
1:12 PM: An eyewitness account from Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch, who says police immediately set upon peaceful protesters.
“We are in East Alexandria. Immediately after prayer, the people came out of mosque with banners and started marching, shouting ‘we are peaceful, we are peaceful’. Security arrived and immediately began shooting teargas and rubber bullets at peaceful protesters, about 600. Then one-hour rock throwing clash, but police didn’t advance more than one block and kept being pushed back. Then a massive column of protesters came from the other direction and blocked in police, holding up their hands and shouting we are peaceful. Right now police is held up in the yard of mosque and protesters all around, police can’t move. They repeatedly ran out of teargas and begged protesters to stop, protesters telling them to join them.”
1.09pm: Al-Jazeera in Suez says the police station in the port city has been taken over by protesters who have freed detainees. They have also set fire to three armoured cars. The reporter said the police were overpowered within minutes.
12.59pm: In another extraordinary audio report Jack Shenker in Cairo reports on signs that the police are siding with the protesters. He saw a senior police officer discard a teargas canister to signal to protesters that he was on their side. Will the regime fall he asked a state journalist. “It’s already falling, it can’t stop,” Jack was told.