Only a few hours ago, the tens of thousands of Egyptian protesters occupying downtown Cairo looked like they might actually achieve a small degree of success in their self-conscious effort to reproduce the popular uprising in Tunisia. As Eric Trager wrote last week, Egyptian opposition movements face a far stronger and more entrenched regime than did their Tunisian counterparts. Today's incredible showing in Cairo, in which protesters appeared only minimally challenged by the notorious Egyptian police, who were for a while tremendously outnumbered, had many Egypt-watchers allowing themselves a moment of guarded optimism.
But that optimism has quickly given way to horror as riot police, and perhaps the military, have begun to brutally crack down. So far, the only reports from the protest are on Twitter; they are preliminary, unvetted, and may turn out to paint an incomplete picture. But they portray a sudden and violent response from police, as well as possibly the massive Egyptian military, which is paid for in part by over a billion dollars in annual U.S. military aid.
Correction..Bullets fired in Alexandria are actually rubber bullets. Our correspondant was hit with rubber bullet not live bullet. #Jan25
Police just arrested everyone in cilantro. Took their ids and phone. We barely got out." #jan25
Something big is happening. Central troops just pulled into Liberation Square.
There are dozens injured. The police is attacking brutally in Tahrir Sq. #Jan25
Fucking scary... Troops now reunning back. More more