While using Twitter to narrate events in Tahrir Square on Friday, people in Egypt described tires burning in the street, protesters blocking traffic and hurling rocks, and police officers launching tear gas in an effort to break up crowds that had gathered to protest against the Muslim Brotherhood and the country’s new Islamist president.
Many of the actions described on Friday appeared to hew to a script that has become familiar over the past two years, but some in the crowds of protesters appeared to be using new tactics, dressing from head to toe in black, covering their faces with bandannas or kerchiefs and brandishing black flags as they skirmished with security forces.
“Asked one of them who they are they said we don’t talk to media but we are black bloc,” wrote the British-Egyptian journalist Sarah Carr, adding that a member of the group had “mentioned anarchism.”
An article filed on Thursday by The Associated Press reported the presence of a “previously unknown group calling itself the black block.” The article continued, “Wearing black masks and waving black banners, it warned the Muslim Brotherhood of using its ‘military wing’ to put down protests.”
Although largely new in Cairo, the term “black bloc” has been used for years in the United States and Europe to describe a tacticcommonly used by anarchists and anticapitalists during large-scale political demonstrations that occasionally devolve into street fights with the authorities.