The story of the protest part 2
So anyway, I head out of work and head straight to my Mohandeseen house to drop my bag, my credit cards, and my Ipod just in case something happens at the protest or things get ugly. Karim calls me and asks me to make sure that everyone keeps it decent at the protest, which I tell him that I will do my best to ensure that that's what happens. I start calling the numbers he gave me and talking to the other kids and we agree on meeting in front of Le Pacha and then take it from there. One my way there Highlander calls me from London to wish me luck and to tell me that she is with us in spirit. Najla calls me and informs me that she contacted AFP and they are sending someone and that she also called Josh from the arabist – who is in Jordan mind you- and he said that he will try to send someone as well. While all of this is happening I was getting very excited: I am flying high on this energy you get when you realize that something you helped plan is actually coming to fruition. So I arrive at Le Pacha and I meet with 3 of Karim's friends. A second car then arrives with Nadine and 3 of her friends with the banners. Nadine's brother shows up with his friends and suddenly we are 10. Big Pharaoh calls me and tells me he is on the bridge, Dee calls me and tells me she is on her way, Mohamed is nowhere to be found. Whatever. Anyway… So while I am choosing the banner I will be holding , I notice that one of the girls that came with Nadine, jumped into Nadine's brother's car with his friends and they just left. Suddenly our number was down to 7- with Big Pharaoh who was roasting on the bridge- and then the whining started from one of the girls " But we are only 7. That's not enough. We should wait and see if others will come". So I was like " the others know we are meeting them on the bridge, so we should just head up there and hope they will show up as promised". She pouted and rolled her eyes but ended up coming with anyway. Once I got on top of the bridge and met BP I was like "where is the girl?" "Her Boyfriend threatened to break-up with her if she came. So she couldn't join us." He said, then he asked me "Where is Mohamed?". I looked at him and smiled and said: "Do you see him anywhere?" He looked back and smilingly said "Nahh". He didn’t seem surprised, and neither was I. Some things are just expected, especially from someone who accused Twosret of helping organize this thing in order to "make her life in the west easier". Some people, man. Ugh. Anyway… So the rest of the squad shows up and we start taking our position on the bridge. We chose a spot that has the Nile in the backdrop. Karim called from the States asking what's going on and I informed him we were taking positions, so he wished us good luck, and informed us he had another friend coming. We then started holding the banners in the view of the incoming and outgoing traffic. People's response was mostly the same: Astonished at first that something like this was happening, and then they showed their support by either honking or giving us the thumbs up. We were getting so many thumbs up I was loving it. The people were with us. Just as I knew they would be. And then, of course, the Egyptian police showed up. It was in the form of a little police soldier ( the police in Egypt follows the military structure, with soldiers and officers and generals), who came and asked us what we were doing and if we could go. We explained to him that we were protesting against terrorism, not against the regime or anything. He told us that he was actually happy that we were doing this, but he has his orders from the officer at the middle of the bridge, and he didn't want us on his territory. Ok, remember the rule about "if they ask us to disperse, we would leave"? Yeah, I did too, the kids there didn’t. They started arguing with the soldier, while I kept asking them to just let it go. The two guys decided to go and talk to the officer like he would respond to common sense. This just gave us the chance to just stand on the bridge longer, getting more attention from passersby's. Karim's friend called me, telling us that he is downstairs, while another friend- veiled girl mind you- of Nadine showed up. We were getting closer to 10 people again. Not that whiney girl cared: "We are too few. This is stupid!" , she would say and I was like "dude, it's the principle. You are here to make a stand, not to hang around with many people. If that's why you came, then you can leave, but if you are here to make a point, then stand your ground". That shut her up again, but she was now giving me a deadly look that said " I don't like you. You don’t respond to my whining and I am used to getting my way!" Blahhh…. So we are joined by Karim's last friend just around the time the AFP guy came and started interviewing us. While we were answering his questions , the 2 guys came back from talking to the police officer. "He told us that we have to leave because there are reports of a bomb blowing up on the bridge" one said, while the other quibbled "Yet he is ok with that wedding celebration that is happening right over there" pointing to a group of people celebrating a wedding by standing on the bridge. "Bullshit" the reporter, who was old and Jordanian, smirked. "So, time to leave guys?" I asked, and they all seemed to agree. We decided that if the bridge is a problem, that we would go and stand in front of the Gezira sporting club. "It would be a great place to get more supporters" the girls said. I was like sure, why the hell not. So we go downstairs and we are finally greeted by Dee. She joins us and start to walk and cross the street and stand in the position that would allow incoming traffic from the streets and the bridge's exit to see our signs. We hold them up, and it's the same scenario that just happened on the bridge: Honks, thumbs up, followed by the police coming over. This time it wasn't just a soldier: It was 2 officers and 2 soldiers. Oh baby, we must've been disturbing the peace by our silent peaceful protest. So the expected conversation started : "would you mind leaving? You guys can’t stand here!" "Why, we are protesting terrorism, and we already left the bridge. And it's not like we are protesting the government or anything. We are protesting what happened yesterday, We are actually with you!" "We understand and god knows we are with you, but you know that we are on high alert ever since the bombings and it seems that someone reported you guys and now they might send cars to arrest you all. We don’t want that to happen. So why don’t you just leave?" " And go where?" "Anywhere else!" "But there they will tell us to leave as well! What are we supposed to do?" (While all of this is happening, I was holding the "No to terrorism" banner to my side, this way the incoming traffic can see what we are protesting and what the police is hassling us for) The exchange was cut by the buzz of the guy's walkie talkie. It was a big cahuna on the other side, inquiring about the situation and wondering if any riots erupted yet. The police officer was like " No sir. It's just a bunch of college kids holding peaceful signs. Nothing political." He then looked at us and was like "Please just go. I might have to arrest you." I responded angrily " so this is our reward from you guys for standing up against what happened? We are actually doing this for this country. Because we are disgusted by what happened. And that's how we are treated? We are sorry for condemning those terrorists and standing against them then!" The first officer looked really torn and dismayed and the other one responded and said " Look. God knows we are with you and share what you believe and think. And If it was up to us we would let you guys stay. What you are doing is a wonderful thing and god knows we are not against you. We lost friends and colleagues in those bombings. But it's the higher-ups. They don’t care what you stand for. They just want to assure that no "hassles" occur in their zones." Just as he was finishing his story, the other officer gets a buzz on his walkie talkie : "did you get rid of them yet?" the voice asks. The Officer says " No sir, not yet!" and the voice from the talkie quickly says "What are you waiting for?" and the guy says " They are not causing any trouble sir, and they all look decent and from decent families." He looked really conflicted, and for a second i really felt bad for him. The officer then said " Look, there are ways to do this. Inform us first. Call the PR department in the ministry and we will arrange protection for you. They wouldn't say no to something like that. But until you do we can’t let you keep protesting". The other 2 guys started arguing with him: "But it's our constitutional right, yada yada" and while this is happening Najla calls me and asks for updates, I inform her and she was like "I am coming immediately". My attention was then drawn to this new lady standing next to the reporter asking him about what the deal was: How did this thing come into fruition? When did they organize this? She asks me and I explain to her that it is organized by Bloggers and she was like "What? Are you trying to tell me that stuff like this happens in Egypt? That's unbelievable! I am impressed." And she then started calling this guy Gamal Eid who is a human rights activist and got me to speak to him on the phone. He asks me who we are and what we stand for and what our blogs are, and then he is like "Are you guys familiar with manal and alla? You are? I work with them all the time. Then I will find you guys. What you are doing is great by the way. I wish more people would do things like that!" I thank him and hang up and notice that there is another girl ( a really cute one) who is standing with the group, I approach them and I realize that it is another reporter, this time she is from Al Ahram weekly. She starts interviewing us. The Police officer starts getting nervous. He doesn’t want a protest reported in his district on his watch, but he is starting to fear it's already too late. He starts asking us to leave again, and me and Big Pharaoh decide to heed his call, when Najla calls me and is like : "I am here. Wait for me!". She comes out of the car, and she joins us while the reporter interviews us. The Police Officer is suddenly intimidated. He keeps his distance while the interview is taking place. Anyway, the interview ends, we all shake hands and agree on trying to get a permit for the next protest and hope to organize it better. Karim calls me and thanks us for holding our ground and doing what we did. I thank him for thinking about it and organizing this all the way from Boston. Najla informs me that she knows people that would love to join us, and I am like "then we will call them next time. Hopefully we can pull something by Friday. But I want that permit just so we can shut them up!". She asks me what do I think of having the next protest in front of a mosque and I tell her that I am afraid that some idiots join the protest and start a riot and ruin it. She agrees with me that it's a real possibility and tells me "that the problem lies that everyone has a different outlook and approach to this situation, and they all squabble about their differences. It would be nice if we got over our differences for a greater cause." I tell her that that's our biggest problem, that this is what pisses me off, "that we are fighting on way too many fronts: against the government that doesn’t want us to protest, against the people who view our protest as an insult and the people who agree with us but have different approaches that threaten the message." For once it would be nice to hold something like that and be assured that no idiots will take it over and start rioting and then the police reacts and the message gets lost in the Mayhem of it all. She nods her head in agreement. "The important thing is to not to view today as a failure" she said and I responded " Who said I was? It's a great success, considering the little time we had and the disorganization. Not to mention, this isn't the end. This is just the beginning. We managed to do something to nobody did in this country before and we were less then 10 people. And we held our ground, for 2 hours, against the police's wishes and without a permit! A failure? This is an amazing success story" I finish with a relaxed smile. She smiles back at me. Later on I call Big Pharaoh and ask him how he feels about all this. "I loved it. This was great. For the first time I feel like I accomplished something!" he says. "I know what you mean" I respond. "And what's important , is that we got our message out!" I couldn’t agree more!