Thursday, June 7, 2012

After the Revolution in Guernica

I just published this short piece over at Guernica, on the presidential elections and the protests that followed.

For a brief moment on May 28th, when the results of the first round of the Egyptian presidential election were announced and the run-off was just two weeks away, anything seemed possible. More than a thousand protesters were marching and shouting in Tahrir Square. A smaller set had stormed the campaign headquarters of one of the remaining candidates, Ahmed Shafik, who was Mubarak’s last prime minister and had built his platform on restoring security and order. They returned to Tahrir triumphant, tossing hundreds of Shafik’s campaign stickers into the air, letting them float down to be trampled by the traffic.

A young girl in a bright pink dress sat on the curb, swinging her arm and shouting, “The people and the army are one hand!” It was the exact opposite of the sentiment everyone else was expressing; the others called for the end of military rule. But she was so excited and so cute that nobody stopped to correct her.

A moment later, the crowd started running. Shafik’s supporters were attacking with sticks. For a few minutes we were reliving November, when security forces volleyed tear gas in high arcs over the square, sending thousands scurrying into side streets. I felt the same surge of adrenaline, a visceral memory of the mental command run! I ducked into a storefront and watched as the tension dissipated, the attackers retreated, and the protesters returned to the square, now chanting with a little less gusto. An hour later, few remained. The afternoon was like a highlight reel of the last year and a half: a moment of glamorous jubilation followed by skittish violence.

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