Behind the stage at Tahrir Square in Cairo

Los Angeles Times photojournalist Michael Robinson Chavez recently returned from Cairo, where he  documented the uprising that forced Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from office. His images offer a perspective on the grass-roots movement that sprang to life on a ramshackle stage in the city’s historic Tahrir  Square. Here’s his report.

The 18 days of protests and clashes that brought down Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak were centered largely on Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. The dramatic battles, massive rallies and joyous celebrations played out in newspapers, online publications and on television sets around the world.

One small section of Tahrir Square, in front of a branch of the American fast-food chain Hardee’s, was transformed into the nascent opposition headquarters. A stage was erected, and former opposition leaders, average citizens and grass-roots organizers gathered there to speak to the masses via a scratchy public address system. Names were jotted down and numbers given out so citizens could take the stage and begin practicing free speech, an art lost for the last three decades of authoritarian rule.

There were debates, arguments, laughter and, in some cases, a quick muzzle as some of the “free speech” angered anti-Mubarak protesters. Religious leaders mingled with politicians, tea vendors, auto mechanics and intellectuals. Day after day, the stage area became more organized and energized. However, now the real challenge for this mélange of opposition groups truly begins. The Egyptian military, now in power, is calling for elections in six months, and the opposition must hope that it can get organized as quickly as it ousted an entrenched dictator.


More images of the uprising in the Middle East and North Africa from Robinson Chavez, and Times photojournalists Rick LoomisCarolyn Cole and Luis Sinco, can be viewed here.  An audio slideshow by Robinson Chavez recounting the violent clashes in Cairo is available here.