By Wil Crisp.
Tripoli, 17 February 2013:
At midnight on Saturday night, Tripoli erupted with fireworks and song as the city ushered in the second anniversary of the beginning of the revolution.
Thousands crammed into Martyrs’ Square in the centre of town and there were celebrations in every corner of the city. Earlier in the evening, almost all roads into the city centre were blocked with thousands of flag-festooned cars heading to join the celebrations.
In Fashloom, one of the first areas to rise up against Qaddafi, hundreds of revellers set off rockets and roman candles by hand on the stroke of midnight. They then launched into song while the mothers of those martyred sat on a makeshift stage, many in tears.
“In all Qaddafi’s 42 years he spent millions of pounds trying to make people celebrate for him but it never worked”, said one observer. “Now people are reaching into their own pockets and throwing the biggest party the country has ever seen.”
All across the city sound systems were set up in the street, and people danced beneath the coloured lights that now cover Tripoli.
Despite earlier concerns that anti-revolution elements might try and cause violence during the celebrations, the celebrations were noticeably far bigger than last year.
Watching over proceedings were official police and soldiers along with groups of armed civilians who fought together during the revolution.
“It’s great to all meet up like this,” one former member of the Tripoli Brigade said. “There are no problems tonight, everyone is having a good time. We’re all together and we’re like one hand.”
The smell of hot rubber hung in the air in many streets across the city as motorbike riders revved their engines and car drivers sounded their horns.
“This is free Libya, we can do whatever we want now,” said one man said with a smile as he watched the driver of a Toyota Hilux spin its wheels sending up a thick cloud of dark smoke into the night.
The city remains on high alert although there have been few security incidents apart from an unknown group opening fire at one of the check-points in front of the GNC Headquarters. Police say they arrested the assailants who are now being interrogated. There was also an unconfirmed report that an RPG set off by one reveler in Hay Al-Andalous hit a house.
While many officials have decorated their weapons and are celebrating along with the crowds, checkpoints remain frequent and after dark drivers are encouraged to keep interior lights on in their cars as they drive so their actions can be observed.
Going through one checkpoint a car passenger said he thought the continued vigilance was important, recalling the incidents on the first day of Eid last year when a car bomb exploded in the capital.
“I feel that if we can get through this anniversary period without any bombs or shootings that will be a very good sign for Libya’s future.” [/restrict]