After Tunisia’s Revolution, Egyptian Unrest Goes Viral

Erin Schumaker

By Erin Schumaker All eyes were trained on Egypt after the Tunisian government was overthrown on January 14. In the weeks following that revolution, tension mounted in Egypt, largely fueled by organizing via Facebook and Twitter. Protesters took to the streets Tuesday. Tens of thousands of Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square, the center of downtown Cairo, waving signs and chanting “Get out Mubarak,” a reference to the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, whose 30-year dictatorial rule has united Egyptians of every class and religion against the corrupt ruling establishment. In Egypt’s northern city of Alexandria, men young and old, children, even women pushing baby carriages joined the unprecedented demonstrations. The initial police response to the demonstrations was soft, and officers seemed unwilling to hold the demonstrators back from storming the square in Cairo. As the crowd continued to grow, however, police responded with tear gas, batons, rubber bullets and water cannons. Service by Mobinil (the leading cell phone operator in Egypt) was terminated. Twitter was blocked. Jack Shenker, the Guardian’s reporter in Cairo, was beaten and arrested with Egyptian protesters. According to Shenker, when he tried to explain his status as a British journalist to an Egyptian police officer, the officer responded by punching him and saying in Arabic, “Fuck you, and fuck Britain.” Shenker’s audio account, recorded from the back of a securities forces truck while under arrest, is available on the Guardian’s website. In the blogosphere, a photo of the Tahrir Square protest taken by an amateur photographer and posted on Reddit went viral Wednesday. In less than 13 hours the photo received more than 2,440 “upvotes” and had been picked up by the BBC and Al Jazeera English, according to latenightcabdriving, the Reddit user who posted the photo. Tensions continued to run high on Wednesday. The Egyptian interior ministry threatened to prosecute protesters, and outlawed public gatherings. Egyptians ignored the warnings and took to the streets anyway. According to the BBC, approximately 700 people were arrested as police attempted to prevent organized rallies. In the northeast city of Suez, protesters and police continued to clash as protesters set fire to a government building late Wednesday. As of Wednesday night, four protesters and two police offers had been killed. It may still be too early to tell if Egyptians will follow in the footsteps of Tunisia and push Mubarak out of power, but the door to revolution has been opened. Stay tuned.

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