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The Lede Blog: Street-Level Views of Protests in Cairo to Mark Two Years of Revolution

January 25th, 2013 World

By ROBERT MACKEY

Thousands of protesters remained in Cairo’s Tahrir Square late Friday despite thick clouds of tear gas, after a day of nationwide demonstrations on the second anniversary of the revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

Late Friday, Bel Trew, a correspondent for the English-language news site Ahram Online, reported on Twitter that the police fired yet another volley of tear gas at the protesters in Tahrir Square.

Gas was also fired at demonstrators near the presidential palace after dark, according to a video report from El Watan, an Egyptian news site.

Video from an Egyptian news site showed tear gas being fired at demonstrators near the presidential palace in Cairo on Friday night.

Earlier in the day, as marches from around the city converged on Tahrir Square, activists, bloggers and journalists shared street-level views of the protests as they unfolded, posting text updates, photographs and video on social networks.

As one march made its way to Tahrir, a skirmish broke out after some members of the crowd reportedly attacked the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Web site, Ikhwan Online, and then tried to block firefighters from coming to extinguish a blaze.

According to the journalist and blogger Sarah El Sirgany, witnesses said that masked anarchists, calling themselves the Black Block, initiated the fighting with an attack on the Islamist Web site’s office. During the attack, a vendor’s stand was set on fire, which led to a confused round of fighting between a group of vendors and some protesters, who were under the mistaken impression that they were battling members of the Brotherhood.

When activists from that march finally reached Tahrir, they came across a running street battle between protesters and the police across a concrete barrier blocking one entrance to the square.

That battle, on Qasr al-Aini Street, had begun Thursday evening, when protesters pulled down the barrier, only to see it rebuilt by soldiers. Some of Friday’s fighting was caught on video by Simon Hanna for Ahram Online. Mr. Hanna’s report features a remarkable interview with one of the protesters, a young man who held an empty tear-gas canister in his hand as he explained that his family intended to stay in Tahrir Square until they get justice for his brother, who was killed there while demonstrating on Jan. 25, 2011.

As Priyanka Motaparthy, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, pointed out, an edit of video shot from the other side of the barrier uploaded to the interior ministry’s own YouTube channel portrayed the clash in a very different way, suggesting that the police officers there were victims of aggression from thuggish young men.

Video of a clash in Cairo on Friday, posted online by the interior ministry.

While there was some optimism among opposition activists that the spirit of the revolution lived on, there was also disappointment that a persistent problem, the sexual harassment of female protesters, was also in evidence on Friday.

Despite the efforts of volunteers from Tahrir Bodyguard and OpAnti-SH, who work to protect female protesters against sexual harassment in the square, several activists and journalists reported either being attacked themselves or witnessing assaults on women by groups of men as night drew in.