VO: For the fourth straight day, violence engulfed downtown Cairo, as angry protesters battled with police in front of the despised Interior Ministry. A symbol of repression during the 30-year dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, the Interior Ministry is blamed for being complicit in a bloody riot at a soccer match in the city of Port Said on Wednesday that left 74 dead. Government security forces have been uncharacteristically restrained at times, but they have been unable to dissuade the protesters from pushing toward the Ministry, igniting the clashes. When the police could not stop them, groups of civilians, among them many Islamists, managed to establish a cease fire.
SOT CIVILIAN: All the men should move back! Just move back please, move back!
SOT ISLAMIST: Why are you standing here kids, why? We're trying to help people move back! We don't want this to turn ugly.
VO: On Saturday morning, they formed human chains between police and protesters and instructed protesters to end the standoff with police and return to Tahrir Square.
SOT CHANTS: To the Square, to the Square! Let's go back to the Square!
VO: But many young protesters refused to leave.
SOT YOUNG PROTESTER: We're your brothers, not terrorists. Shame on you Tantawi, shame! A brother is shooting at a brother!
VO: Throughout the day, the mostly middle-aged men tried to placate the younger, fiery crowd.
SOT OLDER MAN: Things need to calm down, our kids need to know to calm down. We'll stand by them, I am with them! But without violence!
SOT YOUTH: They took one of our friends yesterday and killed him!
SOT OLDER MAN: We're trying to unify! How many want to unify!
SOT YOUTH: Instigated by violence, how do you reciprocate?
VO: The Muslim Brotherhood was a major force in the uprising against Mubarak last January. But they and other Islamist groups have criticized the recent protests, instead choosing to participate in elections organized by the ruling military council. While the Muslim Brotherhood has blamed the government for the soccer massacre, they have not endorsed the protests…nor has the other major Islamist group, the Salafis.
SOT ISLAMIST: If you love, Egypt, move back. For God's sake, move back.
VO: But the Islamists could not convince the protesters. A rowdy group of young men chargeD toward the ceasefire line. They pelted rocks at the police, while Islamists implored them to calm down.
SOT ISLAMISTS: Peace! Peace!
VO: Confrontation was avoided. But the rage on the streets could not be dampened.
SOT YOUTH: Hey military, why are you selling us out? How much money are you taking?
VO: The protesters wouldn't budge, and when thousands more arrived in the afternoon, the civilian peacemakers could no longer stop them. They start throwing rocks and removed the police barricades. And then chaos erupts. The police is broken. The police force responds with a salvo of tear gas. Some shoot in the air, others fire directly at the protesters. The short-lived calm is shattered and downtown Cairo once again morphs into a war zone. The city's eerily empty streets are sown with rubble and the air is choked with tear gas. The barrage of tear gas, rubber bullets and birdshot fired by security forces is relentless. But the protesters remain defiant. As quickly as the police fire the tear gas, it's hurled back at them. The lone flag in memory of slain activist Mina Daniel never stops waving through the toxic mist. Daniel was shot in the head during the Maspero massacre last October, when army soldiers killed nearly 30 people outside the government media building. Since then, his relatives have fearlessly raised his flag at protests and the front lines of street battles. Protesters try to set up barricades out of scraps of metal. But the armored police vehicles, notorious for running people over, advance too quickly, firing tear gas at the protesters. Ostensibly a non-lethal weapon, tear gas used by the Egyptian police has had deadly consequences. After numerous protesters were asphyxiated by tear gas last November, the newly installed Interior Minister announced during his inauguration that tear gas would not be used against the people again. But that promise would soon be broken. The gas canisters raining down on the people are the same as those used before and after the revolution one year ago. Manufactured in the state of Pennsylvania and exported to Egypt with the Approval of the U.S. government.
SOT PROTESTER: Come, come, fast, now! They're grabbing some of our men!
VO: Police detain and beat protesters who had taken shelter in the entryway to a building. Other protesters attempt to rescue them, but only one manages to escape. On the streets heading away from the Interior Ministry, motorcycles carrying the wounded push through the heavy crowds of people, ending their journey at waiting ambulances. The health ministry reports a dozen people have been killed and over 2000 injured since Thursday night. Cities allover Egypt have joined the latest revolt. Some of the fiercest clashes took place in the sea port city of Suez. Police forces used live ammunition along with tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters who converged on police stations around the city. Doctors in Suez report at least one protester was killed by live rounds while many others are gravely injured from gunshot wounds. The death toll in Suez rose to 7 by Sunday. In Cairo, on Mohammed Mahmoud street, although the rock-throwing protesters are injured one after the other, re-enforcements keep the battle against the police alive.
STAND-UP JIHAN HAFIZ: Although the streets leading to the Ministry of the Interior are being bombarded with tear gas, you're seeing young people heading straight toward the front line, some of them with medical masks, not gas masks. They are determined to continue battling police forces, until they're able to get as far as the Ministry of Interior. Some of the chanting you're also hearing in this environment is different than before. Where they once said the people demand the popular removal of the field marshall, now they're calling for his execution.
VO: Even with the danger the clashes pose, some Egyptians bring their children.
SOT FATHER: I'm bringing my kid here because he's witnessing history. He's going to write it. Because it's the elders who will lie writing it. This is what he will write about in the future. He's going to build this country. Not us, old folks.
VO: Lots of the people fighting here are young.
More than half the Egyptian population is under the age of 25.
SOT CHILD: the government and the military should go.
JOURNALIST: Are you afraid of the gas?
SOT CHILD: No, I'm not afraid. Not of gas, nor bullets, nor buckshot bullets. Nothing.
SOT TEENAGER: They hit us with these canisters, and there are people who are dead and people at the hospitals. We had a friend here, Mortada, a canister hit and melted his face. They government took him, and we don't know a thing about him.
VO: Women were also near the front lines, tending to the men, serving as medics and at times supplying the rocks.
SOT WOMAN PROTESTER: No, we're not afraid. The women are like the men and our presence is important.
VO: Uprisings in November and December left dozens dead and thousands injured. But the ruling military council managed to quell the protests, erecting enormous walls to stop street clashes and organizing parliamentary elections. But this latest rebellion has a new dimension, as countless diehard fans of Egypt's most popular soccer team have joined in full force with activists.
SOT PROTESTER: Down with the military council!
VO: Frustration and anger have steadily mounted in the year since the revolution. For many Egyptians, the soccer massacre was the last straw. They say nothing has changed despite the arrests of Mubarak and his notorious interior minister Habib al Adly.
SOT PROTESTER: They are dogs of Mubarak. They are all dogs.
VO: Protesters put little faith in the transition to civilian rule overseen by the military council and a newly elected parliament dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi parties. The protesters are calling for an immediate end to military rule and a complete overhaul of the government.
SOT FATHER: They claim they are troublemakers. There are none here! They are all our sons, here, see, these are our sons! This is a troublemaker? We're going to come back again, we won't leave them alone. We demand the military hand power over to civilians! Tell them people! Civilian! Civilian!
VO: Clashes continued to rage on Sunday. And workers and students across the country have called for a general strike on February11, the anniversary of Mubarak's ouster, in support of the people's latest revolt against military rule. Jihan Hafiz, in Cairo, Egypt.