Folks, I've just come back from the the car rally demonstration in support of Al-Khawaja that was planned for today. You'll have to wait until tomorrow for my full write-up and pictures, but here is what happened in a nutshell.
If you were driving around anywhere last night you will have seen that the riot police were swarming everywhere around the island. I went to the Shaikh Khalifa flyover which was where the different groups were supposed to meet up, only to find that the cops had blocked one of the ramps where the demonstrators had made their way. The traffic was then reopened, but they forced about 10 of the demonstrators to stay because they were going to be arrested. Clever me, I didn't leave at the right time, and the goons thought I was a demonstrator also and wouldn't let me leave because they wanted to arrest me also. They made us wait for about an hour and a half, during which time other supporters congregated on the other side of the main highway. Then the 10 guys that I was with on the ramp decided that they would lay down on the road to block traffic. The cops came and handcuffed them and took them away. This angered the demonstrators who were on the main highway, so they then seated themselves there blocking the highway also. This really pissed off the goons, so they came and fired many many canisters of tear gas. I must have heard at least 20 canisters exploding, unless that was the sound of rubber bullets I was hearing (but I don't think so). There was far too much confusion for me to see what was happening. But I got a few lungfuls of tear gas, and it was really uncomfortable this time. Obviously the crowd had dispersed by now and confusion ensued. I saw a few pissed off kids responding by throwing rocks, but it wasn't many because there was so much tear gas that no one could come within a good 500m from where the cops were. The helicopters were flying around trying to find all of the kids running away and arresting them. I don't what else happened after this because I had run away and some nice passerby decided to give me lift in his car and take me to where my car was parked.
There was another group of demonstrators making there way to Mina Sulman, passing by the American Embassy. I heard that the cops blocked off the road or something but there was no violence. I don't know the details of what happened there since I was stuck.
After seeing what happened tonight I totally understand why everyone hates the bloody mercenary riot police. I feel quite angry about how unnecessary it all was. If the cops wanted to arrest the people who were blocking the traffic, then fine. But there was no reason to fire 20 canisters of tear gas at peaceful protesters. Let me repeat, until the tear gas was fired all of the demonstrators were perfectly peaceful. They did block traffic but they did not resort to any violence whatsoever. What happened tonight I'm sure will be remembered and romanticized in the future. The kids who saw what happened will grow up to hate the government and the security forces even more. The government really needs to get its act together.
Check back tomorrow for my full write-up.