Saturday, February 18, 2012

What's all this?

"Collectibles" -  of various parts of spent tear gas canisters and  rubber bullet casings  just gathered up by Parker and Addison on Felix Faure and Avenue du President Lamine Gueye - about 5 blocks down the street. Yeah - we discovered that a manifestation was that close in the late afternoon and into the early evening on Friday, February 17th -  but contained.  The story goes like this...  

I went to La Pouponniere like normal around 2:00 after the Muslim Friday prayers. Parker, Addison and Manning were at a friend’s house who actually lives on the Avenue around the corner from Felix Faure (our street).  When the father had to go back to his shop at about 3:00ish – Parker, Addison and Manning left to go to the Royaltine for ice cream then onto the apartment at which time some barricades were going up but Manning said he thought nothing of it (pay attention to this when you watch the video below).  When I finished at La Pouponniere I left a bit later than normal and waited for several bus options that never came. Yet in the meantime I ended up conversing entirely in French with a young woman at the bus stop who was getting her  PhD at the University. And yes I asked her about the current President. She like everyone says he’s too old but never clear on who they do want.  I wave a taxi down and ask him to take me downtown and I give him a certain known landmark (The Cathedrale) which is just easier than the direct street address of our apartment  but it’s not completely clear he knows so I tell him I’ll explain how to go.  As we get closer to downtown I decide rather than the Cathedrale I’ll have him drop me off at Felix Faure and Avenue Jean Jaure which is actually before the Cathedrale and which is sort of parallel to Avenue du President Lamine Gueye.  And I figured I would just walk up the street.  As I start walking I see random people walking towards me wearing surgical masks. I’m like “hmmmm” – “something doesn’t seem right”. But I kept walking  and of course kept seeing more and more people with masks on just up to the corner of Felix Faure and the Avenue Lamine Gueye.

It was 7:30 p.m and while the police were still out in a blockade – I had arrived when it was clear all the mayhem had ended. I spent no time standing around like others who were milling - except that I noticed lots of broken up pieces of cement that were likely hurled as stones just everywhere on the street.  I just worked my way around on the next street away from the blockade to get home. I think it was about 10:00 p.m when Parker, Addison and Manning went down to see what they could see and  by now all the police were gone. Lots of rubble on the street, burnt vendor stands, little small fires burning out on the sidewalk and the street.  People were trying to finish putting out the fires and clean up a bit.  Some taxis and cars were now able to pass thru and driving over the rubble to get through this section of the Avenue that was no longer barricaded. 

Turns out we found a clip on youtube of what was going on - when clearly we were not there!!  As far as that ice cream/pizza eatery- it's next to the patisserie on the corner where the video clip shows the police throwing the tear gas canisters.

Saturday morning - The "investigators" went out to see again what they could see - all is calm, normal, shops open, street cleaned up,  a few sidewalk sections broken up – which must have been the source of the ‘stones and rubble’ being thrown. A few vendor wooden stands charred still remaining and others maybe already swept away (that's a shame) and a big burn spot in the middle of the street. It's a fascinating time here - in terms of the desires of free speech - protests are supposed to be banned by a government decree (not democratic at all for a democratic society) – but of course pressure builds – so the opposition showstheir disgruntlement - then big bad police have to come break up the protest - they are caught in the middle -  more anger and more protest. The decision to ban protests pushes the hot buttons of all. Manning says we can't forget the 60's in the US.  There is alot swirling around at the moment.   So today  Parker and Addison wanted to 'rebuild' all the separate canister pieces  so Manning helped them do that with all the . So now they want  to show some other friends from school who live around the corner. We said - "You know - maybe it's better if you put them in this yellow canvas sac until you get there" - and off they went!

We’ve got two more nights here in Dakar  before we leave for 5 days to Sine Saloumn.   While our focus of course is staying away from any of the flairups in the neighborhood – we’re looking forward to a ‘safe, serene’ area of Senegal.  And oh yeah - we're going to get to our lodge by the sept-place - that's the plan anyway!