The Man & His Street
A short publication produced during a Creative Lab residency at the CCA Glasgow.
A man switches on the television. He turns up the volume so that he can hear it from the kitchen where he goes to cook eggs for his breakfast. As the sunny-side-ups sizzle in the pan, the blare of the news filters in from the other room. The man hears sounds of crowds, of shouting and chaos. He stands leaning against the doorframe to watch the screen while the kettle boils for his tea. On the screen a reporter shouts into her microphone as people run around behind her, breaking the windows of houses and smashing up shop fronts. The kettle clicks off but something catches his eye and draws him in closer. Just behind the reporter is a parked car and the man recognises the car as his own. The reporter on the screen is stood in front of his car parked on his road, the road on which stands the building where he lives on the fourth floor and the footage is live.
He goes back to the kitchen and reaches over the sink to pull up the window and looks down onto the street, where he sees nothing but quietness. He sees his car parked alongside two others to his right. He sees his neighbour entering the building with bags of shopping directly below. He hears shouting, but it is coming from his living room. Here, outside, there is only the distant sound of traffic punctuated by the yapping of an impatient dog that has been left tied to the lamppost while its owner has gone into the off-licence.
The man hurriedly returns to the television, where he follows the unfolding events. Scores of people are standing around while others quickly move across the frame of the camera. The reporter is describing thetense atmosphere but is interrupted by the sound of glass smashing and the camera moves clumsily to point towards the action where people are following each other in through the large hole now gaping in the window of the off-licence. The man cannot see the dog tied outside. The camera is disturbed and the reporter’s voice is heard asking someone off screen why they are pushing her. The shot cuts and returns back to the studio where a woman behind a desk speaks earnestly into the camera. The man sits for a moment dumbfounded.
He looks again out of the window and sees only normal life, but notices faces at the windows on the other side of the street. He assumes they are people who also cannot understand the gap between what they are hearing reported and what they are seeing with their own eyes. He closes his window, turns off the television, picks up his keys, goes downstairs and stands on the pavement. A few other neighbours join him. No one understands what is happening.
He stands with five others, one of whom has a radio, discussing confusedly while listening to reports from studios and then live off the streets, the sounds of disorder and shouting. They continue to listen to the distant commotion being described as taking place on their own street, while standing in silence surrounded by quiet.
After a while the man returns to his flat to look online for explanations of what is happening. All the main news sites describe widespread civil unrest, lootingand damage to property throughout the area. He finds comments responding to articles and the occasional forum disputing the news, saying all is quiet in their neighbourhood, but he also finds more and more video clips with people throwing stones at riot police, crowds tearing shutters from the fronts of shops and bins being set on fire.
His phone rings and the man picks it up. It is his mother and she is calling to make sure he is okay. He tries to explain to her that it isn’t true, or that it’s a mistake, but she has seen his street on the news and people are breaking into buildings and he should lock his door and not go outside. He tries to explain again but is distracted by a woman’s voice shouting in the street. He tells his mother he has to go and hangs up the phone. He again leans out of his kitchen window to see what is going on. More people have gathered now, local residents as well as others and people with cameras. They look small below him. Everyone is standing and watching. The disturbance is coming from the pavement directly opposite his house where he sees an elderly man with a hammer and planks of wood, boarding up a window on the ground floor and there is a woman shouting at him to stop. She is shouting about not succumbing to fear. She says that this is what they want, they want us to be afraid and we must not give in to their tactics. We must be strong and fearless and stand up together. The old man continues hammering without responding until his job is done, and then goes back inside his house. The woman continues shouting her message, this time not aiming it at anyone in particular, but the groups ofpeople standing around act as her audience and the photographers move in to capture her next to the boarded up window.
More people fill the street seemingly coming from nowhere, and people with camera crews and microphones arrive. The man, now back on the street, stands at the entrance to his house and thinks to himself that all the people should leave. He dials 999, but as the operator answers he hears the sound of shattering glass and turns to witness, for the second time, the sight of the off-licence being raided. As his attention is drawn back to the telephone by the woman repeating her question, he says he needs the police, only to watch a team of men in helmets and round shields entering from the left. To his right a mismatched group of people move towards the uniforms throwing things and gaining ground. They move confidently as if carrying the knowledge of some greater secret. The bystanders move away and residents go back inside their houses to watch from the windows above. The young woman continues to shout at the centre of the chaos about conspiracies and truth and resistance. The man then glances to his right and sees an old man smash the rear window of his car and another throw a torch inside. It starts to burn and the man feels helpless here on the street as the people move so quickly and his vision cannot keep up.
He goes back upstairs and watching the news again, hears reports of the violence spreading and sees himself on screen cowering in his doorway, where hestood just minutes before, behind his own car being burnt to cinders. He turns off the television and sits in his armchair and does nothing. He hears the continued shouting filtering in through his window, into the calm of his living room. He listens and does nothing and it goes on for what seems like hours. It gets dark, he falls asleep and when he awakes it is quiet. The street is silent and broken.
It is thought by some that Green Square in Tripoli was not taken by the NATO backed rebels on 21 August 2011 as was reported. It is said that the footage shown on the major news networks over the following days was shot on a film set in Doha, Qatar, where a reconstruction of the square was built. This is thought to have been an act of psychological warfare with the aim of acting as a catalyst, triggering the event in Tripoli by spreading confusion throughout the country.
Image: David Holt, licensed under Creative Commons
VISIT TO GREEN SQUARE
Green square, or in Arabic, Assaha al Khadra, as the local taxi drivers know it, is always a busy place to visit, except on Friday mornings (holy day) when you virtually have the square to yourself before 10am. This is an ideal time for photo opportunities. Do not take pictures of police or their stations, as they get a bit upset, but apart from that, it is an excellent place to start or finish your visit to Tripoli. Normally it is very busy and you have to be very aware of the traffic at all times.
GADDAFI'S SPEECHES SQUARE
It is a well-known place in Tripoli and the meeting place of the city's inhabitants. The square is one of the most important celebration places in Libya. Muammar Gaddafi addresses his speeches to the nation from here on the most important days, such as 1st September Revolution anniversary. The site is in perfect condition. The square is surrounded by some of Tripoli's main attractions like Tripoli Castle, Tripoli Medina and the sea side. Palm trees around the square and a fountain add an exotic taste to a pleasurable city center. Green Square has one minus as it is a noisy place. Traffic circles the square and it is full of speeding cars day and night.