Written by Mary Hughes-Thompson, part of the GFM convoy that has been trying to
get into Gaza.
In about an hour the Gaza Freedom Marchers in Cairo will be meeting in Tahrir
Square to celebrate the beginning of 2010. January 1st will be the fifth day
of my hunger strike.
It was an eventful and exhilarating day for all of us here in Cairo. This
morning we began to arrive in small groups at a couple of locations in downtown
Cairo, intending to join and up and begin a solidarity march to Gaza. We
didn’t expect to get far before being stopped, so we took what things we had
that would make it easier to spend the night in the street. As soon as we got
out of our taxi near the Museum, Hedy and I and Hedy’s two friends from St
Louis were immediately surrounded by security police who tried to lead us away
from the area.
All around us we saw other small groups receiving the same reception. After
sitting on a bench in front of the Nile Hilton for half an hour, with half a
dozen police standing close and trying to persuade us to continue walking away,
we suddenly saw a surge of people crossing the street a few yards from us, and
we quickly rushed to join them. Free Gaza signs appeared, chants of “Free
Gaza” were heard. Passengers in cars and buses gave us a wave and a smile. We
were immediately encircled by several hundred policemen who placed barriers
around us and began to push us more tightly together. We tried to keep space
around Hedy, as we were pushed and squeezed. I feared my ribs would be
crushed as I was squeezed tighter and closer to people around me. A few people
fell or tried to sit in the middle of the circle and the police went after
Suddenly I was pushed to the ground and fell flat on my face. As people around
me were pushed more tightly to the center, I feared I would be trampled.
Perhaps the police thought I had been sitting, because they grabbed my arms and
began to drag me along the ground. I felt my one shoe fall off, then the other
I tried to hang onto my things as some French people came to my rescue,
reaching out to help lift me to my feet, then leading me away next to the wall
and away from the police.
My shoes and my cane were swallowed up and could not be located amid the mass
of people. We stayed together for many hours, held tightly in our circle by
the police. It was very warm, but as always spirits were high, some enormous
signs were raised by young men who climbed the only tree we had in our
enclosure. It was a laurel tree, and many people raised branches above their
heads as we called for peace and freedom for Gaza. At the moment we knew the
march was taking place inside Gaza we chanted again: Free Gaza, Free Gaza.
Someone began to play an accordian, and I was pulled, shoeless, into a circle
of women, including Hedy, as we danced in a circle while people around us
Eventually, after several hours, some members of American Veterans for Peace
who had been watching over Hedy persuaded her it would be safer if she left.
They felt the police were getting more threatening and were worried they
wouldn’t be able to keep her safe if we were rushed and attacked. Hedy
reluctantly agreed to go outside the circle to talk to some press who wanted to
interview her, so Hedy, Sandra, J’Ann and I were, after some negotiations,
escorted outside where Hedy was greeted by reporters.
So here I stay in Cairo, grateful to be merely shoeless, somewhat bruised and
only slightly battered, still strong and determined, proud and humbled to be a
part of this amazing family that has come together from around the world to
stand in solidarity with Gaza, Palestine and to remember what happened in Gaza
a year ago. We may not get to Gaza this time, but we believe we have made a
joyful noise in Cairo.
Happy New Year everybody. Free Gaza. Free Palestine.
PS: One of my shoes was later found.