sorry this is rough. I will be back soon to edit. Heading out to tahrir now.
Friday night I witnessed the tanks roll into Tahrir square downtown Cairo on Friday night. To my amazement the crowds cheered. So for the most part the demonstrators are celebrating the military presence on the streets of Cairo. One demonstrator told me "the police protect us from our enemies, they won't do us any harm." Until last night demonstrators holding a permanent sit-in in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo were surrounded by a number of military tanks charing cigarettes and jokes with soldiers, while one soldier I saw joined the protestors for evening prayer.
This morning about 11am security officials stormed the Aljazeera office in downtown Cairo and closed the office. Two mobile phone carriers sent out messages that people should stay home to protect their homes from the looting. According to Aljazeera earlier today the protestors are no longer sitting on the tanks and there are reports that the military presence is spreading all over Cairo. Via @justimage the US embassy is calling on its citizens to leave Egypt, via Dutch journalist Dirk Wanrooj Heineken and Shell have evacuated their employees. @monasosh reports at 12:15 the military are tightening access for civilians to Tahrir Square. At 1pm the satellite carrier Nile Sat blocks Aljazeera Arabic from viewers in the Arab world. Choppers are increasingly flying over the skies of Cairo.
Despite the positive attitude of the people towards the army, there is no reason to believe that the military shares any interests with the common Egyptians on the street. The reason people are calling for change is that they are tired of economic policies of the Mubarak regime, they have had enough of police violence and a government that does not provide for its people. The faltering Egyptian regime's allies are interested only in what they term "stability" which means prosperity for a small class of Egyptian elites and upper middle class on the backs of the labor of the vast population. What this process entails is the selling off of Egyptian natural resources and enslaving of the Egyptian labor force working to next to nothing while food price go through the roof. The reason for this is the decisions made by the Egyptian policy makers in line with the logic of neo-liberal institutions like the World Bank and IMF, seated in the USA that primarily benefit the economies of the global North.
As we slowly approach sundown and the supposed recent daily curfew in Cairo I expect tonight will be different than the past few days. At some stage the military is going to stop acting as a mediating force and will try to take direct control. I have no illusions that they are acting as anything but a vessel for this sort of "stability" that the global North desires. In Egypt we are no longer in the age of military coups, it is not a question of who has the most influence within the military and what they can get away with, it is a matter of the interests of external forces are and these external forces are looking for the right partner within the current Egyptian regime. What does this mean on the ground? There will be harsh clashes between demonstrators against the military who will quickly switch sides. But the people will not let go easily. In the middle of all this there a lot of looting taking place especially in the suburbs. This has a mix of sources, many of the looters are police officers following orders to loot just like Fateh PA members did during Hamas' initial rule in the Gaza Strip. Other looters are petty criminals released from police stations, partly by the police themselves before they fled, also involved are opportunists who are simply hungry under the economic pressure of living under the circumstances existent in Egypt today.
All this to say, this mass mobilization of the Egyptian street is not without purpose. Rather, this is a powerful manifestation of the will of the people. As I walked the streets amongst protestors I was constantly amazed by the extreme attention protesters paid to parked cars and stores we passed by. The heart of this protest is a strong rejection of a tyrant, the rejection of classist economic policies and proof of the failure of neo-colonial capitalism everywhere.