Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Egyptian military police confront protesters outside Cairo office building

Shots fired. Army called in.

I took this picture a few seconds after military police fired shots into the air.

I witnessed Egyptian military police fire shots outside an Egyptian office building near Ramses Station in Cairo, Egypt. The allegedly corrupt head of an Egyptian newspaper firm seems to be trapped inside the building. The protesters want him to resign.

I was told by a local businessman that protesters claim that Mohasn Mahmod Bahgat, the head of Kawmea-Tawzee, a national newspaper or magazine company is collecting a wildly excessive salary and abusing workers. I'm told this is a government-owned media company. One observer claimed the chief Bahgat's salary amounts to as much as US$200,000 a month. Another observer -- a businessman who works in the building next door -- told me that Bahgat fires workers at will and there is no job security. Other onlookers suggested to me that Bahgat's money was going to "Switzerland."

I woke up to the sound of protesters marching this morning.

Protesters march prior to office building stand-off.

From the roof of a distant building, I watched demonstrators gather on a street outside the steps to an office building.

This crowd would grow considerably.

In the afternoon I went out to check on the protest. Standing among hundreds of other onlookers, I stood directly across from where I had watched the protesters gather in the morning.

The protesters were shouting loudly, some waving flags, others holding signs. I saw that military police, wearing red caps and armed with rifles were guarding the building.

The situation deteriorated suddenly. I saw that the military police, who stood guard on the top steps, were being pushed up against the glass doors of the building by the pressure of the protesters below. In response, the military police pushed back, and protesters were pushed back down the stairs. The crowd became angry and pushed back against the military police.

Suddenly, the military police fired several shots. I hit the ground. An onlooker informed me that the police had fired the shots into the air. I watched military police holding rifles move onto the roadway, stopping traffic.

About twenty minutes later the army showed up: two armored personnel carriers arrived carrying a dozen soldiers. When these vehicles pulled up in front of the office building, I heard cheers. It sounded to me like the cheers had come from ranks of the protesters.

At this time (4:22pm in Cairo), the standoff continues. It may be that the head of the newspaper company is (still) trapped in the building.
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