Arab West Report Middle East Published Articles

Video Analysis of Maspero: Part Two

For the Introduction, click here. For Part One, click here.

The Beginnings of Violence

Video Six: The Coptic Protest in front of Maspero (Five minutes)

This is the best video I could find which seems to locate the outbreak of violence. There are several hundred protestors standing outside the Maspero building, and the camera is elevated and seemingly in front of the building. The Nile Cornish road is open with traffic flowing slowly, but consistently. There are police assembled on the other side of the road. Bambuser, which the service hosting this video, provides a live feed directly from event to internet, and stores it thereafter.

0:22        Following a speaker, the crowd cheers as if a normal moment in a demonstration

1:00        Camera angle widens to show traffic progressing along the Cornish

1:15        The attention of protestors is turned to the north, and they begin clapping excitedly

2:05        Chant leaders tells crowd to ‘welcome’, but the rest of the audio is inaudible

2:25        Chants of ‘Million-man, million-man’ begin among protestors[1]

2:38        It appears some protestors move into the Cornish towards the police

2:45        Attention of protestors turns to the south, and it appears the march from Shubrā has arrived

2:55        It appears another group, carrying a banner, arrives from the north

3:05        A van is able to drive very slowly toward the south, showing one lane of the Cornish still open

3:15        All protestors are turned to the west, facing the river, with raised hands chanting

3:22        It appears the police stationed across the street move forward into the demonstration, causing those in front of them to pull back slightly

3:35        The Cornish is cleared completely, showing that at first protestors filled one lane

3:55        Another contingent of police emerge from the east, apparently from near the Maspero building

4:05        The scene is filled with black clad riot police, which move in tandem to the south

4:18        The sound of gunfire begins, and all fall further back to the east, down a side street, as the police pursue

4:45        Camera flashes back to the Cornish, which has traffic flowing through

5:19        There appears to be another gathering, though unclear, to the south in the corner of the screen

Video Seven: The Army Beginning to Open Fire in Maspero (Two minutes)

This video is taken from inside the gathered crowd at Maspero. It is less clear than the first, but provides another angle on events.

0:15        Traffic is flowing on the Cornish

0:20        Some people apparently move toward the police across the Cornish

0:40        It appears that helmeted riot police stand at attention near the protestors as if making a cordon

1:07        Camera circles behind to show the Maspero building

1:19        Cries go out from the protestors with the sounds of gunfire in the background

Video Eight: Fr. Philopater, a Few Minutes before the Clashes at Maspero (Three minutes)

This video shows the approach of the march from Shubrā, now meeting up with the main protestors. They come from the south, and meet a cordon of police officers which block their way. Small altercations break out, but the video ends before anything conclusive is determined.

0:05        A pickup truck is with the approaching protestors, perhaps the same one as earlier

0:10        Some protestors are moving back away from the direction of the march

0:15        Fr. Philopater appears, waving people forward toward the direction of Maspero, someone yells, ‘Don’t move back, go forward’

0:35        The road opens up, to show a gap between assembled protestors at the front lines and others falling back a bit

0:38        Two cars move against the demonstrators, showing Cornish traffic is still nominally flowing

0:55        Side view of Fr. Philopater, still motioning protestors onward

1:10        Sounds of gunfire, direction indeterminable

1:44        Picture of man wearing purple with a plank of wood, near him is a dissembled banner from which it possibly could have came

2:00        Demonstrators find the path blocked by military police wearing helmets and with riot shields

2:11        Man wearing a white shirt kicks at police shields

2:14        Altercation between demonstrators and police, police swing batons at protestors

2:26        Protestor wearing black throwing something in the direction of the police, behind him one wearing purple does the same

Video Nine: Maspero 9 October 2011, Part One (Eleven minutes)

This video is assembled and edited, but shows a remarkable narrative from within the events beginning with the demonstration at Maspero, showing many of the above scenes (and those afterwards with APCs and general chaos) from a street-level, as-it-was-happening angle.

0:48        View of the protest at the Maspero building, with a closer angle to the front lines at the Cornish near the military police; crowd is engaged, chanting, ‘Raise your head high, you are an Egyptian’

1:00        A raised plank of wood is seen moving forward in the crowd, towards the police, but the camera turns before any outcome, if there was one

1:17        Video shows the protestors have moved into one lane of traffic on the Cornish, but not crossed to the opposite lane; APCs parked, but few soldiers immediately visible

1:22        First sound of gunfire, location unknown, then scene changes

1:25        A bit darker, but traffic still flowing, so this scene must be not long after earlier one ended; several police seen beating a protestor on the ground in the median of the Cornish

1:30        Cameraman runs away toward the south, perspective now appears to be from the side of the march; much gunfire heard

2:20        Chants of ‘Peaceful, peaceful’ emerge from protestors – same location as video from earlier, but from a different angle?

2:30        Protestors lying down in the road in a line, do not appear injured but rather making a passive protest, perhaps

3:10        Military riot policeman charging at demonstrator swinging baton violently at him

3:26        Protestor swings a whip – perhaps his belt – over his head in a threatening manner towards police, then withdraws

3:54        APC appears in motion, plows into the back of an army jeep, pushing people at front of jeep backwards

4:20        Scene in which people stand on APC and throw huge stones down on soldier inside, while others swing at him from outside with clubs, a cross; one of those on top is wearing the white martyr’s robe seen at the beginning of the Shubrā march

4:42        Great care needed here: It appears one in the crowd attacking a passing APC is wearing army fatigues and their standard red cap; he raises his baton nearer to people than the vehicle, but scene switches; he does not appear under duress nor are people attacking him, at 4:50 appears again standing around in middle of scene, and moving at 4:56

4:49        APC drives toward Maspero, appears to ‘jump’ in the street

5:00        As chaos continues, people are seen lying on the street, obviously injured but unsure of nature, though one case seems connected to the APC which just drove past

5:30        Large crowd beating on stalled APC with iron circular clubs – resembling those broken off the wall of the Foreign Ministry fence which I saw from when the sit-in was dispersed a few days earlier

5:45        Second APC speeds alongside it, plowing over many; crushed bodies seen in its wake

6:40        Police chase crowd of people down the Cornish to the south, some appear to jump into the Nile

6:50        Police retreat, people throw rocks at them, policeman throws back a cross

8:50        Priest conveying a soldier to safety as people surround and try to continue to beat him

9:43        Someone strikes at the priest and soldier from behind, not sure who he hits, but priest goes to the ground covering the soldier, crowd surrounds them there without attacking

Analysis: The protest gathering at Maspero appeared to be peaceful, but then something caused an apparent advance toward the military. It may well have been the arrival of the Shubrā demonstration march, but this is not certain. In any case, from the angle of Maspero it does not appear that the demonstrators attacked the police, rather, perhaps responding to provocation or nerves, the police charged into the protest and dismissed it forcefully. From the other direction, it appears the police had no intention to allow the demonstration from Maspero to join the already stationed protest, and cordoned it off. There is evidence of some protestors responding violently, though most people are standing around innocently.

Fr. Philopater is a controversial figure. He speaks clearly that his presence as a priest does not represent church endorsement, yet his status as a priest helps give religious legitimacy to many Coptic participants. His claim to end the procession ‘inside Maspero’ could have only been exaggerated language use for effect, though it is easy to understand its reception as a threat. Later on, as he encouraged the crowd to advance in front of the police cordon, he may have been seeking only to assert the will of the protest to join together. There is no video evidence he encouraged violence in this effort.

Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) Driving along the Cornish

Video Ten: Maspero (Two minutes)

This video is taken directly from the television coverage of al-Arabiya. It shows APCs driving through the crowds, apparently seeking to disperse the protest.

0:10        APC driving along a mostly open road, with people throwing objects at it from the side

0:20        The speed of the APC can be gauged at a wider angle, and suddenly it turns 180 degrees, over the dividing median when people are standing; it does not appear anyone is struck

0:35        The APC is obviously swerving through the people, including riot police which evade its path; again, objects appear to be tossed at the vehicle

0:55        Video switches to riot police striking at protestors hiding behind parked cars

Video Eleven: CNN BBC RT: Christians Copts Genocide by Muslim Egyptian Army, Run over them with Army Tanks (One minute)

No timeline is necessary for this video, as it is a loop depicting a scene in which an APC plows through a crowd of people standing unaware, shown earlier. A group of protestors have mounted an APC stalled on the median, and are striking at it with sticks. Those standing around on the road doing nothing are hit by an APC at high speed, running over at least two.


Video Twelve: Most Dangerous Video showing Running Over Copts with Jeeps and APCs, and Killing with Army Bullets (Three minutes)

This video is taken from within the crowds as APCs and Army Jeeps were driving through. It demonstrates the chaos of the scene as well as the aggressive behavior of people there.

0:17        As the cameraman walks through the crowds, some begin chanting ‘Peaceful, peaceful’

0:45        An empty stationary military transport bus is being struck by people with different objects

0:55        Shots of gunfire are heard

1:00        The first APC rolls through, only a few feet from the cameraman, a second follows behind; speed of vehicles does not seem overly fast

1:15        A third APC drives across the same stretch of road along the Cornish

2:00        People seen vandalizing a parked army jeep; mix of those holding crosses or signs from the demonstration with those clearly holding clubs, sticks

2:10        Another APC drives through, as people strike at it with clubs and sticks as it goes by

2:25        Army jeep pushing another jeep forward through the crowds, second jeep veers toward the people and nearly runs someone over before stopping short

2:30        People, with both clubs and crosses, run towards the stopped vehicle rapidly as video ends abruptly

Analysis: Different pictures are presented in each video, and unfortunately chronology cannot be determined. It appears the APCs were conducting an organized mission to drive through the protestors in order to disperse them. It also is clear these APCs were met with aggression, though video suggests the drivers also meted out aggression of their own. Certainly the chaos of the scene was overwhelming and it is impossible from this footage to determine, on the one hand, if there was a policy of running over protestors, or on the other hand, if those crushed resulted accidentally from drivers who lost their nerve. Evidence can be marshaled from these videos to support either conclusion.

For the Introduction, click here. For Part One, click here. For the full report in pdf, click here.

[1] This chant emerged during the protests of the revolution, which witnessed massive gatherings in Tahrir Square. It has been repeated since, even in demonstrations significantly less than one million strong.

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