Walk with me...
Ever wondered what Martyr's square (a.k.a. Freedom Square) looks like at midnight?
Sure, we have all seen the thousands of flag-bearing protesters congregate in the heart of this city every Monday, a virtual sea of red and white...
But what happens when the cameras are turned off?
I decided to head down to the place on a rainy Wednesday night. What I saw truly warmed my heart:
- The tents pitched by the protesting youths have more than doubled in number. I felt like I was walking through an army encampment. All the tents centered around the proud Marytr's Statue. The 2 large projection screens were transmitting the last news bullitens of the day.
- In the distance was the grave site, where groups of white pigeons rest upon a bed of flowers among candles that never seem to die out. People still wait in turn to circle around the grave and pay their respects. And beyond them, a small digital board counts the number of days that have elapsed since the tragedy. That night, it read "24"... 24 days waiting for "The Truth". (I couldn't help but notice that to the left of the "2" was a spare digit. It can go up to "999"...)
- I walked on towards the empty clearing were the protests are usually held. I hadn't yet had the chance to stand at the very centre, since I rarely manage to join the crowd early enough. Now the people were sparse, but they were there nonetheless! There was an old man waving a flag and a picture of the slain Ex-Prime Minister (see picture above). A few meters away, an old woman with an umbrella in one hand and a flag in the other was shouting patriotic slogans intertwined with prayer. A few young men and women as well, in little groups , probably discussing the days to come.
There I was, standing in the center of all this with a flag on my shoulder and a smile on my face. And that is when I realized: it was never about the number of people who showed up on the days of the demonstration, or the placards and slogans, or the music and the speeches. Nobody asked (or, as in the case of the pro-Syrian demonstration, forced) these people to be there. There was no media to report that they showed up. They were there because that was what they wanted, what they needed.
Standing in that square, they felt like I did; free.
I stayed for a while longer, walking around and listening to pieces of converstaions. The light in the camp was dimming as the lamps were turned off little by little.
On my way out, a young man was trying (and failing) to volley a potato wrapped in foil into a make-shift grill he had erected. Looking at me, he smiled and said the next throw would be in my name.
Then picked it up and tried again.