First-person essay by Mourad al-Sayyid
In the past few weeks of unprecedented — and sometimes unpredictable — protests fighting for Black lives and against police brutality, I have asked myself about similarities between this movement in the United States and Egypt’s 2011 revolution.
I considered parallels between police-community relationships in both — having first moved to Pittsburgh in 2012 as an academic. I spent periods of time in my native Cairo between 2011 and 2016 while completing a seven-year project on Egypt’s counter-revolution. I participated in demonstrations now known as the infamous “Mohammed Mahmoud Street” protests of November 2011 and attended every day of the Michael Rosfeld trial in 2019 for the killing of Antwon Rose II, including the subsequent protests over police violence.
During Egypt’s 2011 revolution, the country experienced an overnight disappearance of police from residential streets and protest sites. Rumors from the public were divided, with some suggesting that government officials were trying to scare the public through their absence, while others argued that police were genuinely resentful of a public that now critiqued their past tendencies.
In 2020, officers in local police departments across the United States are responding to critics with a combination of repression, reform and re-organization. Observers in both Egypt and the United States witnessed, and are witnessing, a complete transformation in legal cases and official political attitudes against policing as an institution. That they were accompanied by a rapid shift in public opinion make both historically exceptional.
Mourad al-Sayyid is a native of Cairo who originally moved to Pittsburgh in 2012. He has participated in protests against police violence in both cities. (Photo by Heather Mull/PublicSource)
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