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Hail the heroes of Liberation Square

Published Feb 4, 2011 2:33 PM

Liberation (Tahrir) Square, Cairo, Feb. 1.

Feb. 4 — The battle in Cairo’s massive central square to oust the dictator and U.S. stooge Hosni Mubarak will go down in history as a pivotal moment, whatever its outcome.

The masses in Tahrir (Liberation) Square — now known among the fighters as Martyrs’ Square — gave the counterrevolutionary thugs of a dying regime blow for blow, pushed them back and held the square, thus achieving both a military and political victory. and political victory. They were fully aware of the crucial political importance of holding the square for the people. This was a victory for the masses of Egyptian people, the people of the Middle East as a whole, and the workers and oppressed of the world.

The Mubarak regime made a brutal attempt to reverse the powerful momentum of the uprising after millions of people had come out for the “million person march” all over the country on Tuesday. What was purported to be the largest demonstration in the history of Cairo gathered in Tahrir Square.

Key to the Mubarak regime’s desperate attempt to regain its position was the drive to sweep the demonstrators away by force and violence and take the square for the counterrevolution. In addition to aiming for the political symbolism of retaking the square from the popular anti-government forces, the goal was to sow terror and fear among the population.

Thanks to the thousands of defenders who risked life and limb for two days, the regime failed on both counts. The defense of the square on Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 2 and 3, cleared the way for the enormous outpouring on Friday, the “Day of Departure,” and allowed the struggle to regain its forward momentum.

Undoubtedly, the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department and Wall Street all watched the heroic defense in and around the square with great apprehension as they saw Mubarak’s thugs beaten back. This must have accelerated the efforts of the imperialist ruling class to pressure Mubarak to get out.

The defense of the square was a glorious example of rapid self-organization by the people. Thousands of demonstrators vowed to remain in the square until Mubarak and his regime were gone. They were suddenly confronted by thousands of plainclothes police, Ministry of the Interior spies and employees, members of the ruling party and miscellaneous hired thugs. There are 1.5 million police and 3 million members of the ruling party.

These dregs of Egyptian society had been brought in by buses and vans by the regime to a staging area near the square. At 2:15 p.m. they were given the signal to charge. The military, which at first held them back, let them in to go on a rampage. Wielding pipes, chains, rubber hoses, knives, clubs with nails in them, and guns, and hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails, they charged the unarmed demonstrators.

Within a short time the demonstrators set up defense barricades of metal sheets, iron fences, overturned cars, boards and anything else that could serve as a shield and a barrier. Groups were organized to defend different points and to set up checkpoints around and leading to the square.

The sidewalks were chopped up to make rocks to throw. Bottles were brought from everywhere to make Molotov cocktails. An unnamed Al Jazeera online producer was on the scene and reported from a checkpoint into the square: “Rocks were stacked in piles around the streets and Molotov cocktail bottles sat next to one another near a tree — a revolutionary armory.” Food and other supplies were brought in and distributed. A steady drumming kept up morale.

The reporter spoke with Hossan Eid al-Sharqawy, the leader at the checkpoint. “Hosni Mubarak kills his own people,” he said. “If I die here tonight, you will tell my story.”

That explains how the mood and the slogans changed in the square from “We’re going to stay in the square” to “We’re going to die in the square.”

As the battle became fierce, casualties mounted on both sides. Hundreds of demonstrators received head wounds, stab wounds and broken bones. Many suffered gunshot wounds. Before dawn on Thursday, the government thugs opened fire. The number of deaths in the square was reported as 10 to 15, but was probably much greater.

Makeshift field hospitals were set up in alleyways. One mosque was turned into a field hospital. Volunteer doctors poured into the square to help the wounded while demonstrators assisted. “Mubarak told them to kill us,” said Osama Hilal, a doctor who was treating the wounded at a makeshift triage center. “He thinks he will succeed to make all the people get out of the square. But we will not leave.” (Washington Post, Feb. 2)

The defenders captured 350 of the counterrevolutionary forces. The office of a travel agency was transformed into a holding center for the captured thugs. They were handcuffed with plastic twists. Police and Ministry of Interior identity cards as well as National Democratic Party cards were taken and shown to the press. They were then turned over to the army.

The bravery, determination, creativity and resourcefulness of the unarmed masses on-the-spot military organizing to beat back this vicious surprise attack shows what potential there is for much wider and broader mass efforts. They will be needed to drive out the old regime, which is backed by U.S. imperialism and all the imperialist powers, which want to hold the reins of Egyptian society, by hook or by crook.