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Student recounts utter chaos of Egyptian protests

Derrik Sweeney, center, gets hugs from his father Kevin Sweeney, left, and sister Ashley, right, after Derrik arrived at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011, in St. Louis.

Derrik Sweeney, center, gets hugs from his father Kevin Sweeney, left, and sister Ashley, right, after Derrik arrived at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011, in St. Louis. Photo by The Associated Press.

Editor’s note: Derrik Sweeney, a 2009 graduate of Jefferson City High School, was one of three college students arrested Nov. 20 during demonstrations in the Egyptian capital of Cairo. In this column, he shares his look back on the experience.

Passages from the column, which can be read in its entirety in our newspaper or e-Edition for Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011:

The Egyptian people are not protesting out of boredom or their inability to afford a new iPad; they are not the foolish, misguided folks who march and yell in the “Occupy” protests here in America (with which I disagree wholeheartedly). Rather, they are far more similar to the revolutionary warriors upon whose efforts our Founding Fathers built our great republic: they oppose a non-responsive, unelected military regime that profits at the people’s expense.

...

I hope one day to utilize my language skills in the U.S. military, defending liberty and the American way in remote and hostile regions of the globe. As such, while studying abroad in Cairo during these turbulent and transitional times in Egyptian and Arab politics, I considered myself a great advocate of the popular push for freedom and governmental self-determination.

...

After sprinting away and then regrouping, we Americans were approached by five Egyptian men in plain civilian clothing, offering to bring us to safety. When we crossed a police line where no protesters went, we began to resist the suspicious men “helping” us. At this point, they began punching us, kicking us and dragging us with them, bringing us into the strange building in which 15 to 20 men carrying guns took the now-infamous photos and videos of us in front of a white wall. They took our belongings and told us to hold the menacing bottles seen in our pictures.

...

During this period, I confronted the mental and spiritual task of coming to grips with death, preparing myself for the possible end of my brief stay in this material world, questioning whether anybody outside this small, dark room would know of our circumstances and murder.

...

While I do not regret attending the protests, I do recognize that going into the more dangerous side streets was a very foolish decision. To any who felt sadness or pain because of my predicament, I say that I am sorry and infinitely thankful for your prayers or positive support.

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