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First you hear the shouts, then the cries and the screams of "Down with the dictator." Then you see that people have stopped working, have come outside of their shops and offices to stare at the marching mass. Thousands of men are picking up rocks, ripping up paving stones and striding towards the seat of power. At the front three armoured trucks are leading the march onwards as those aboard bang their metal surfaces with anything to hand. These vehicles had been dispatched hours earlier by the authorities to crush the unrest only to be overwhelmed by the protesters. They ripped the helmets, the shields and the truncheons from the hands of the riot police. Now they are streaming towards the President's offices. This is the around lunchtime in Bishkek. The revolution has begun.

"Down with Bakiyev...down with Bakiyev....down with the dictator."

The march is swelling, magnetically drawing in passersby.

"Join us cowards...down with the Dictator and his family of criminals."

Men push forwards into the mob, in small groups and alone. Once they have slipped into the columns their faces seem to change, their eyes bulge and they begin to cry and whistle with the rhythm of the mob. They are no longer alone in drudgery. They are part of something now.

"Today is the revolution...we are going to overthrow the government...the people are overthrowing the government....the people want power...power!"

I am walking forward in this drably clothed river of faces. Men are ripping pieces off shop fronts, waving in the air what they will use as weapons. The armoured trucks are leading the way, their green painted steel giving the crowd its confidence and glint. Those onboard are screaming, their veins strikingly visible. They are high on their audacity, drugged by revolution.

"But yesterday we lived fine. How will we live tomorrow?"

She is trying to tug her husband back from the march, but he is caressing a rock and will not turn back. He is one among thousands now. The leafy main thoroughfare is lined with vast crowds. They are watching, spectators to their future, as the trucks accelerate and race forward towards the seat of power, a constructivist Soviet-era headquarters known as the White House. 

"This revolution will really change things. We are the true revolution."

This boulevard has seen it all before. In 2005 Kurman Bakiyev and his men surged towards the White House, shouting oh-so similar slogans, deposing the previous regime in an episode of mob rule known as "the tulip revolution". Bakiyev promised a democracy, prosperity and a better life for the people of this resource-poor Central Asian state.  Instead he pioneered greed-governance, drifted into despotism and distributed tasty chunks of the economy and apparat to his family. His brother was awarded the local successor agency to the KGB - the SNB - and his son rapidly rose to the post of Kyrgyzstan's premiere mafiosi.

"Come on....do it...forward..."

The armoured vehicles are accelerating towards the White House. The rioters are running alongside them, whistling and howling. A forklift is sweeping behind them, followed by a tractor and a mobile crane. Thousands are perching around the main square, trading questions, confusion and excitement.

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Gabriel Rom
April 12th, 2010
6:04 AM
Ben, your work is absolutely astounding. You are bar-none providing the most human, relatable, and yet horror-inducing writing on the events in Kyrgyzstan.. This work is as detailed and informative as it is beautiful and emotive. Thank you for providing the world with this much needed piece of writing. Your humble admirer, Gabriel Rom

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