After two years of ongoing conflict with the Morsi regime and the Muslim Brotherhood, some young people turned to civil disobedience such as the general strike supported by around 10,000 people in Port Said the end of January, 2013. They were protesting the court’s rulings about the soccer riot the year before. Others gave up on non-violent protest after numerous accounts of police kidnapping, torture, beating, and aiming their bullets at the protesters’ eyes. The catalyst was the police attack on a peaceful sit-in at the Presidential Palace in Cairo in December 2012. Five—or some say 10–demonstrators were killed and sparked “a generation born of the blood of the martyrs.” The faces of these youths are painted on Cairo walls. Hassan, 20, an engineering student and co-administrator of a Facebook page, explained to a reporter, “After the palace events we saw that the Brotherhood were very organized. We had to organize ourselves. Basically, the idea is to defend the revolutionaries” and the spirit of the revolution.
A month later the Black Bloc announced its formation via the Internet. A video filmed in Alexandria at night with a hard rock audio background proclaimed its opposition to a religious dictatorship, a “fight against the fascist regime and their armed wing. Get ready for hell. Chaos against injustice.” Their Facebook page quickly got over 35,000 fans. The roots of Black Bloc go back to young people wearing black clothes and black mask who were willing to destroy property to protest nuclear plants (Germany, 1980s), the World Trade Organization (Seattle, 1990, broke windows and spray painted graffiti), and Black Bloc members breaking windows at Occupy demonstrations in the US (Oakland 2011). In Egypt, they’re not anarchists although some of their black flags carried in demonstrations include the letter “A” for anarchy. It includes female members.
Their goals are to change the new constitution with its attempt to institute Shariah law, to establish secular democracy instead of “fascist tyrants,” and to protect women, foreigners and others harassed on the streets. They make their own Molotov cocktails, firebombs, and grenades and some members have shotguns. The Black Bloc acknowledges attacks on Muslim Brotherhood offices in various cities on its multiple Facebook pages. It also has its own rap song. Black baklavas are sold on the streets for who ever wants to join the demonstrations. Some wear gas masks or Guy Fawkes masks used by the group Anonymous. A participant in the Jan25 uprising told reporter Jared Maslin, “I think whoever is behind them is very immature. All they’ve done is given the government more excuses to clampdown on protests.”[i]
Blogger Gigi Ibrahim concluded on a positive note, “People have found their voice, they are not afraid and they know their way onto the streets.” Much work remains as the military controls much of the economy, many officials are ex-generals, it is funded by over a billion dollars from the US each year, and insists on shaping the constitution to keep some of its power. Youth succeeded in making a revolution but not in long-term planning.