by Patrick Appel
Kristof blogs his observations:
In my area of Tahrir, the thugs were armed with machetes, straight razors, clubs and stones. And they all had the same chants, the same slogans and the same hostility to journalists. They clearly had been organized and briefed. So the idea that this is some spontaneous outpouring of pro-Mubarak supporters, both in Cairo and in Alexandria, who happen to end up clashing with other side that is preposterous. It’s difficult to know what is happening, and I’m only one observer, but to me these seem to be organized thugs sent in to crack heads, chase out journalists, intimidate the pro-democracy forces and perhaps create a pretext for an even harsher crackdown.
As does Wendell Steavenson:
"Of course they are all paid!” one anti-Mubarak protester told me, pointing at the pro-Mubarak cluster. “Crazy, crazy, crazy,” said one old man walking past, shaking his head at the clash of opinions and the rising noise level. “Mubarak is good!”
The pro-Mubarak supporters coalesced into a march of perhaps a hundred or so, and advanced toward the square. At the same time, a much larger pro-Mubarak march, several thousand strong, was coming from another direction, holding portraits of Mubarak, banners, and placards. Many of them wore small laminated Egyptian flags around their necks; when asked where the flags had come from, one said he had got it at the TV station where they had gathered for the march. One man held a banner which read “Baradei, You Are Not a Traitor, You Are a Spy!” But when I asked what it said, he hadn’t read itit had just been given to him.
A source in the ruling National Democratic Party said the party asked provincial offices to organise pro-Mubarak protests. Mohamed al-Helo, a member of Alexandria's local council, and Abdallah Osman, a high-ranking member of the NDP in Alexandria, were seen guiding the protesters.