Much has been made in the media of the young men on barricades with sticks and crowbars—apparently a sign of chaos and violence. But the truth is different.
These men, wearing makeshift white sashes, represent local committees set up in their communities.
The police vanished at the end of last week, opening some prisons in an attempt to cause chaos. There was looting and some violence. But everyone says this was the police’s doing.
The committees direct traffic, make sure people can get home safely and run barricades made of burnt out vehicles and, in one case, two overturned police booths.
They stop and search cars and check ID while volunteers sweep the streets. Doctors distribute the few medical supplies left. Bread, dates and sweets are shared. A small cart with giant pans of couscous attracts a queue—no money is exchanged.
One volunteer told me, “The police wanted to cause chaos so they could turn to the people and say ‘it’s this or Mubarak’. It didn’t work.”