Rally for Solidarity with the People of Egypt

Just a few minutes ago, while making dinner, I was listening to the news program Democracy Now. One of their producers, Sharif Abdel Kouddous, has been reporting from Tahrir Square since the beginning of the Revolution. Today, he followed the protesters as they marched out of Tahrir to gather in front of the parliament building.

So here am I, standing in my kitchen, listening to the news, and they cut to Tahrir Square, and I hear the roar of thousands upon thousands of voices, shouting and chanting and clapping their hands in time to the calls. Hear for yourself: http://www.democracynow.org/2011/2/9/after_record_level_turnout_in_tahrir

And this was all a really astonishing thing, but what floored me was this: the voice that's leading the call-back chants sounds just like the young Egyptian man who helped lead the calls at the protest in Detroit that I attended on Saturday. More than that, they have the same rhythm. My Arabic is too poor for me to understand most of what's being said, but I can't imagine that the words all at different. Maybe the Egyptian with the bullhorn in Detroit got some of his slogans for the protesters in Egypt.

In Detroit we said, "Honsi Mubarak, you will see, ALL Egyptians will be free." Also, we said, "Brick by brick, wall by wall, we will see Mubarak fall," and any number of other things. But my favorite was when the person will the bullhorn called out, "No justice?" and everyone shouted back, "NO PEACE!"

What should I say about the Detroit rally? Well, it was organized by the Michigan Socialist Party (part of SPUSA, I believe), and at the highest point there were about 60 of us there. Some of the protesters were folks I knew from the Detroit Socialist Party, but for the most part the rally itself was directed by several Arab-Americans (if they were organized, I didn't get the name of their group).

You know, I expected to feel ridiculous standing out there in the cold with the big poster board sign I was given. And I also expected that we'd get some negative attention, but all the by-passers I saw were friendly and supportive. At the worst, some of the folks who were waiting for their bus laughed at us a little bit, but mostly people seemed to be pleased that we were there, and after staring for a little while, many of them took signs and joined us. Many, many people driving by also honked their horns in support, or slowed their cars to roll down their windows and give us thumbs up and victory signs.

There was this sort of avid expression in the eyes of so many of the people who stopped to watch us - even the ones who didn't join in - that I feel as though it's true that people really do want to find a way to change things, but they just don't know how to start. I really do think if more of us could figure out how to get things started, something meaningful might be done. These things snowball once you get them started. Egypt is proof enough of that.

I wish I'd taken pictures, because the variety of people there was something beautiful to see. It started snowing heavily soon after the rally began, so everyone had a fluffy layer of snow on our clothing and in our hair; there was an Arab man with bushy eyebrows, and they were flecked with snow, and his beard was full of snow. There was this pole-thin anarchist, with all the Radical Leftist fashion gear - red bandanna over his face and combat boots, and a patch on his bag that said "Keep warm - Burn out the rich" - and he had a big red and black anarchist flag that he was waving over the heads of a couple of young women in hijab.

There was one girl in a wheel chair, who's friends took turns pushing it. At some point a homeless man joined the line; I don't think he understood exactly what was going on, but even spacey as his eyes were, there was such a happy look on his face, like he was proud and pleased to his core to be included in something, to be able to contribute. There were students and small children and parents with babies in strollers, and an old man who wasn't up to marching, but who stood in front of our loop and held up his sign.

It was very good to be able to stand with the SPUSA and with the people of Egypt, and with all the people of the world who want freedom and justice. I felt like such a useless coward, just sitting at my computer while the people of Egypt fought and bled for their rights. I know that in my life I'll never do anything as brave or as important as what the heroes in Tahrir Square are doing even as I sit here typing this, but I'm very proud to have done this small little thing. Now I just need to figure out what my next step should be.