Americans in Cairo talk about protests

February 3, 2011 12:02:58 AM PST
Anti-Mubarak protestors blame the Egyptian president's regime for orchestrating Wednesday's violence. They even showed off police badges they wrestled from their attackers. ABC7 talked with people in Cairo, watching the protests. A professor from New York University and an Arabic language student from the Bay Area are describing what they have seen firsthand.

From her apartment across the river from Tahrir Square, Richmond native Sarah Layton Skyped in her description of the pro-Mubarak demonstrators who attacked what had been a peaceful protest of the Mubarak regime.

"They all had the exact same printed sign, you know, some people were arriving by busses, it seemed like someone was coordinating that what I saw today," Layton said.

NYU history professor Khaled Fahmy saw them march in.

"Dozens and dozens of people being organized and marched from the north of the city down south to Tahrir Square," Fahmy said.

Fahmy saw camels and horses from the tourist stalls of the pyramid plateau being trucked to the streets north of the square.

"And at around three o'clock p.m. they unleashed these animals with people mounting them, carrying clubs and sticks and beating the peaceful demonstrators beneath them," Fahmy said.

Fahmy says the attackers lobbed Molotov cocktails and threw stones from rooftops.

Earlier this week, the army had been making sure no one carried weapons into Tahrir Square.

"Today they just allowed throngs of people to pass through with whatever clubs and sticks and knives and stones that they were carrying," Fahmy said.

Fahmy says it looks like the army is siding with the Mubarak government, allowing plain clothed forces to move in, masquerading as pro-government demonstrators.

"The first time that I saw it was actually on April 6, 2008," Stanford Professor Joel Beinin said.

The former head of the Mid East studies at the American university in Cairo says he has seen the Mubarak government use the same tactic against other demonstrations.

"They want to demonstrate both to the domestic audience and to the international audience and especially President Obama. 'It's either us or chaos,'" Beinin said.

Beinin says the fact that the army appears to be going along indicates they are siding with Mubarak's choice of a successor in Vice President Omar Suleman.