CAIRO – In the aftermath of clashes on Friday night to mark the two-year anniversary of the January 25 Revolution in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, pundits and politicians focused much attention on a new group of violent protesters.The group calls themselves the “Black Bloc,” possibly in connection with other black bloc anarchy groups around the world. For the first time on Friday, teenagers and young people came out in force, dressed head-to-toe in black, many wearing black balaclava ski masks.“Some people think they are ‘ultras’ but they issued a statement on Friday saying ‘we’re not ultras, we’re not anyone.’” However, some wore ski masks with the insignia of the El-Ahly soccer team.The protests in Tahrir Square have taken on a sinister tinge as many of the demonstrators now wear plastic joker masks frozen in a smile/grimace to avoid identification.Many seasoned activists dismissed the black blocs as angry teenagers looking to stir up trouble who will not have a lasting impact.“We might see a reemergence [in coming protests] but I don’t expect them to hijack the revolution,” said Adel.“[Are the black bloc] anarchist revolutionaries or 18 year olds who live with their moms & wear black masks thinking life is a video game?” asked one activist sarcastically on Twitter.The term “black bloc” began in Germany in the 1970s with a group of anarchists, and has been used loosely in a number of other instances since then, including the anti-World Trade Organization protests in Seattle in 1999 and the G20 summit in Toronto in 2010.In Egypt, members of the black bloc refused to speak to the media. “No one knows anything about them, they appeared three or four days ago,” said Adel, an Arabic literature teacher who saw them in Tahrir on Friday for the first time.
Egypt Port Said protests 1 (Photograph: Melanie Lidman)
Egypt Jan 2013 protests 370 (Photograph: Melanie Lidman)
Egypt Port Said protests 2 (Photograph: Melanie Lidman)
Egypt Port Said protests 3 (Photograph: Melanie Lidman)
Egypt Port Said protests 4 (Photograph: Melanie Lidman)