By Oscar Ten Houten at Jul 16, 2011
The other day someone walked into the 15M News offices with two bags full of stuff. For some reason, in Sol they had told him to come here, to the Patio Maravillas squat. He said he had been evicted.
I have no time to feel sorry for him. I’m much too busy. Together with comrade Jim from the United States I’m working day and night on a preview of an international news site about the movement. We wanted to launch it, symbolically, on July 14, to be able to bring the latest news from the Bastille.
Apart from that there’s all the usual commitments and appointments. I seem to be perpetually in a hurry. I don’t like that, I prefer to take things easy. But on the other hand, there’s a hell of a lot going on, and I don’t want to miss it.
So I walk down to the Tabacalera. Today there’s a very interesting meeting with comrade Tarek from Egypt, a veteran of the revolution, the first person to plant his tent on Tahrir Square. He starts off by saying that the Egyptian revolution is long from being over. It’s only at the end of the beginning. He tells the tale, and does so vividly, about the last days of the Mubarak regime.
The way it started was typical. The 25th of january had been declared a national holiday since the year before. They called it the ‘day of the police’. It had been a supreme act of arrogance on the part of the regime, because in Egypt everybody passionately hates the police. They are corrupt to the bone, they torture. Their mission is not to serve and protect, but to fuck you up.
So, what do people do when they get a day off in honour of the police? They take to the streets, they go the Ministry of the Interior in Tahrir Square to demand the resignation of the police’s supreme commander.
It was a huge success, although the national media ignored it completely. People decided to organise a day of rage for the following Friday. And that was when the protest became an insurrection. After the morning prayer people from all the neighbourhoods of Cairo marched to Tahrir. They were much too dispersed to be controlled by the police. The regime was scared. Mubarak had taken a fatal precaution that completely backfired on him. He had disabled the internet. He hoped to cut communication and coordination between protesters, but all of them knew the way to Tahrir. In addition, the people who would have stayed home found that they had no access to their Facebook account. So what did they do? They took to the streets as well.
After the day of rage, the authorities tried to cope with the insurrection in various ways. First they withdrew the police from the street and opened the doors of the prisons, menacing chaos. The result was that people organised their own neighbourhood watches, which turned out to be much more effective than the police had ever been. The regime tried violence after that, they tried promises, they tried blaming the rest of the world. It wasn’t enough. They sent tanks onto the streets. The protesters went mad with joy. They had never seen tanks on the streets before. Everyone wanted to take a family photo with a tank on it. The soldiers were received as brothers, as heroes.
Now all the odds were against him, but Mubarak still tried to hold on. A general strike then tipped the balance. He was finally forced to resign. The army took over.
But that isn’t the end of it, Tarek warns. The revolution is far from being completed. The current regime is the direct successor of the previous, and without popular pressure things will stay the way they were.
I return to the 15M News office late at night. We have been camping out here for more than a week. Usually we work until five in the morning. But now it was time to take a break. The preview of the site is up, I fulfilled my obligations, I did what I thought I had to do. So, I said, “let’s watch a movie.”
The movie had only just started when the squatters marched into our office. They came to evict us. “You can’t stay here during the night. The assembly hasn’t granted you permission.”
It provokes a smile on my face. In the last edition the 15M News proudly spoke about all the evictions that had been avoided. And now the editors of the newspapers get evicted themselves. I like irony, even when it’s bitter.
So far so good. But what infuriates me beyond my capacity to express myself is when they go to wake up the man who had already been evicted earlier that morning. They kindly offer him to help him with his bags.
Now, if I were a journalist - which I’m not - I would definetely know what tearjerking story to smash on the front page.
‘Evicted man seeks help from the 15M movement and gets thrown out onto the street in the middle of the night, with all his stuff.’
Not even the police evicts people in the middle of the night. They have the courtesy to wait until the morning.