Resist: From Tahrir Square to the Tenderloin

Published 11/30/2017 (ebar.com)

Ahmed Salah, pro-democracy activist and author of “You Are Under Arrest for Masterminding the Egyptian Revolution,” spoke recently in San Francisco, where he now lives in exile. Photo: Christina A. DiEdoardo 

Six years later, there’s still a light in Ahmed Salah’s eyes when he talks about the preparations for the January 25, 2011 uprising against the regime of Hosni Mubarak, then the American-backed dictator of Egypt, to a small group meeting at Pharaoh’s Mediterranean Sandwiches in the Tenderloin.

“We told [the Egyptian people] ‘We are going out on January 25,'” said Salah, who has spent decades fighting for democracy in Egypt. “Is there anything that would make you join us?”

The response he got will be familiar to anyone who’s done organizational work.

“They said, ‘If I see that it’s a real thing, I’ll join,'” Salah said, with the hint of a smile.

To make the revolution a real thing, Salah and his team eschewed trying to organize mass gatherings and focused instead on taking back Egypt alley by alley from the Mubarak government.

“We started in the narrowest streets, because all the activists need to do there are a few things,” he said. “How to distribute flyers without being caught, how to draw graffiti without being caught, and how to spread rumors.

“The idea is to make every house talk about us,” Salah added.

Contrary to the story spun by the American media at the time, Salah credits that type of ground-game activism – rather than the internet – for what happened that day. As planned, those who occupied those alleys and streets didn’t stay there, but fed into the main thoroughfares of Cairo until they seized control of Tahrir Square, which is about 11.2 acres in size (or more than five times the size of San Francisco’s Union Square) after a two-hour battle with regime forces.

Within a few weeks, Mubarak was out of office and under arrest. Salah, who was both tortured by regime forces and shot by one of their snipers, traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others on how the U.S. could help support a democratic Egypt.

Unfortunately, in April 2011, according to Salah, the United States decided it wanted to “reconcile” the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood with the Egyptian military, leaving Salah’s democracy activists out in the cold. Despite an outstanding warrant for his execution issued by the military, Salah managed to leave the country and is now in exile in San Francisco.

His memoir, “You Are Under Arrest for Masterminding the Egyptian Revolution,” is available through Spark Press and http://www.amazon.com. Salah also hopes to consult with local activists in the Bay Area to help improve the effectiveness of their organization and tactics.

No eviction without representation

At 11 a.m. Saturday, December 2, at the San Francisco Tenant’s Union at 558 Capp Street in San Francisco, the SF Right to Counsel Committee will host a signature kickoff for its “No Eviction Without Representation Act” initiative. The measure, which according to the group needs 9,485 signatures from San Francisco voters to make it to the ballot for the June 2018 election, would obligate the city to provide attorneys at public expense for tenants served with eviction notices.

Justice for Mario Woods

At 3 p.m. Saturday December 2, at Martin Luther King Jr. Park on Third Street between Armstrong and Carroll avenues, Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community–Justice 4 Mario Woods will conduct a march and vigil to honor Woods, who was killed by San Francisco police in the Bayview exactly two years ago. San Francisco Police Department officers shot Woods 20 times after he reportedly refused to drop a knife that was later tied to a stabbing, which took place earlier that day. While the case led to changes in the SFPD’s use-of-force policy, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón has yet to decide whether to bring criminal charges against the officers who caused Woods’ death.

Fighting back fascists in the Bay Area

At 7 p.m. Friday, December 8, at 747 Polk Street, Communities United Against Racism and Fascism will hold an organizational meeting to set up a “democratic, direct-action united front to counter the ultra-right.”

Women’s March Oakland returns

The organizers of Women’s March Oakland are teaming up with March for our Future to put together Oakland’s second Women’s March on Jan. 20, 2018. The inaugural march in January drew over 100,000 people and was such a massive success that the Oakland Police Department was forced to clear additional streets for marchers to accommodate the unexpectedly large crowds.

Since March for Our Future focuses on youth activism and mobilization, organizers of the Women’s March are trying to build on that success while strengthening the intergenerational nature of the event. For more information, visit https://womensmarchoakland.org/.

Email me at mailto:christina@diedoardolaw.com.

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