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Kevin Hutchinson was supposed to have a relaxing week in Cairo. Instead, he found himself holed up in his hotel, in the midst of violent protests.
He's no stranger to chaotic experiences. The Calgary, Canada native currently lives in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and his travels have taken him to Khartoum, Sudan, during a rebel attack; Hong Kong, where mafia killings took place in his hotel; and Islamabad, Pakistan during a suicide bombing.
“I’m not sure if trouble has a knack for finding me, or if I have a knack for finding trouble,” he said.
Protests against an anti-Islamic movie trailer on Youtube began in Egypt and have spread to other countries, as far away as Australia, within the past two weeks. After demonstrators laid siege to the U.S. embassy in Cairo, the violence spread to the streets, just outside Hutchison’s hotel.
“On Thursday [September 13th] the amount of protesters increased considerably and I was able to watch quite a bit of the events unfold behind the hotel,” he said.
“Much to my surprise, it continued to escalate into the evening, I began to post iReport videos showing the clashes between the protesters and police.”
Despite this, Hutchison made it to the wedding inside the hotel that night as planned, though hundreds of guests declined to attend. “Within a few hours, the reception hall was filled with tear gas as the protests turned to riots outside the building.”
Soon Hutchison was told that protesters surrounded the hotel, so the entire building was on lockdown.
“It almost seemed implausible to me that, for one, this protest/riot was still happening and two, that the police were being backed up – they were not holding their lines. It wasn’t like there were tens of thousands of rioters; there were a lot, but I’ve seen far larger crowds controlled with far more efficiency.”
Riots continued through Friday, and Hutchison, stuck in his hotel, sent more footage to iReport.
“Some of the heaviest fighting took place next to my room, on the street separating the Shepherd and Intercontinental,” he said. “The rioters would move up, the police would push them back but then fall back to a spot farther back than the original spot they held.”
By Saturday afternoon, the protests had calmed down to the point where he was able to leave his hotel and return to Dubai.
Riots also spread to Tunisia on that Friday, and the American Cooperative School of Tunis was ransacked. iReporter Gabe Bredy’s father is the superintendent of that school. The two of them cleared the compound of looters, though not before much of what was there was destroyed or taken, including the school's computers.
Bredy told his story to iReport, and a week later, reflected on what happened.
“It has been an emotional week, and the attacks felt very personal to a lot of people,” he said.
“I think the situation is improving in Tunis. Tunisians are a lovely, moderate people and are ashamed of their actions on the 14th. I know most here are eager to rebuild and reopen. The spirit of service among international teachers is strong, and people just want to begin teaching their students again.”
Hutchinson also shared his thoughts on the future of Egypt after this incident.
“If the newly elected government of Egypt cannot lead its own people through times like this without calling for protests and reaction, rather than calm and action – it needs to get the hell out of the way and allow a more suitable government take its place. The people of Egypt - my friends there - deserve this.”
I do not think that it is safe to travel in the entire region right now. People have been fighting over religion for centuries and now they think Americans are against them because of a dumb video. Americans are the most open minded about religion, and we support peace and democracy - yet they hate u for one bad remark made by a few individuals. (Which by the way is allowed because of free speach!)
I have a simple question. If the US new about threats,in Lybia for months,and everyone nkew about the anaversary of 9-11,why did the Ambassador and his staff choose to travel to a lesser fortified embassy,why not stay in Tripoly!!!! Stupitidy or ego?