Earlier today I was looking into evidence for the massive and brutal suppression of peaceful protests in Libya I had heard so much about, in vague form. Along the way of checking into one claimed support for sniper - A site called "Wikileaks Central" posted a detailed collection of Twitter tweets, video, and such for the first week of the uprising. One entry was from the very beginning, February 16, and shared by a man in Benghazi, Libya's second city, speaking to al Jazeera. He said in part:
7:15 AM The eyewiness says there is no Libyan government presence for negotiation, they brought thugs to Benghazi from outside but they all fled from the protesters. Snipers are positioned atop buildings in all parts of the city with the primary aim to kill the Libyan youth.The snipers and their known aims must have been learned by visual sightings, not felt with live fire. At least one source says no one was killed in Benghazi on the 16th, only 38 injuries, mostly suffered by security forces [source]. But by another, unconfirmed and unlikely account, at least six were seen being killed by the same witness, who saw African mercenaries hacking people up with swords. The snipers of Benghazi, if they existed, sure didn't earn their paychecks that day.
But the Wikilieaks Central posting inserted in support of the claim "men with what appear to be rifles on top of buildings can be seen in the video below." It was the same one below here, uploaded February 16 by Youtube user "leakspinner," suggesting the same person assembling the page in question.
The video as posted is labeled Az-Zintan, a city in the country's west, south of Tripoli and near the Tunisian border. So off the bat, it cannot support the claim of roofline snipers in Benghazi. (it was apparently mislabeled at one point as from al-Baida, corrected to Zintan, but never Benghazi). The western town did however see unrest in synch with the other two, starting from a temporary arrest of an activist in Benghazi, two days before the planned Day of Rage on February 17.
As in al-Baida further east, Az-Zintan witnessed large marches and the burning of pulic buildings on the 15th. "[H]undreds marched through the streets and set fire to security headquarters and a police station, then set up tents in the heart of the town." [source] Either this video is a day old (despite saying "today"), or it shows about the same thing happening for a second day in Zintan. A mob with a few signs, sometimes called protesters, is burning images of Gaddafi in very large piles right up against what seems to be a police station.
By two minutes in, the fires out front were really blazing, and the smoke is getting thick. No one is running for cover from any snipers. They ignore loudspeaker warnings, hurling rocks and junk at the buliding, climbing up in its windows like children, perhaps trying to light up the inside. It's possible they succeeded, although the video is too short to show the station bursting into flames.
Protesters are firmly demanding, and just taking, their perceived right to set fire to occupied public safety buildings for days in a row. These are John McCain's heroes, Libya's Islamist Weathermen, and they were not even really raging yet.
Finally we see men on the roof, the possible snipers, overlooking the hostile crowd below. One apparent soldier slinks up from behind the outer wall at 2:10, and stands up, pacing along the edge a little. No rifle is visible at this resolution, but his posture - and common sense - suggests he's holding one at the ready.
He gestures to others invisible across the roof, but only at the end, 40 seconds later, does another soldier appear. In the meantime, the crowd has calmly, and prudently backed off on noticing their new company. They shout as a parting taunt "God is Great!" I imagine one of the soldiers muttering "of course he is! Why do you have to keep yelling it at ME as if I don't know it?"
No shots are fired whatsoever, although the first soldier apparently tosses a few of their projectiles from the roof back down to them as he first appears. So no, this video at least shows nothing like peaceful protesters just trying to "express themselves" only to be mowed down by insane, genocidal forces ... in fact it shows quite serious restraint, in the face of a rather audacious and unsavory sort of vandalism.
In other spots and other times, these "idealistic youths" apparently managed to provoke the bloodshed they'd need to get really mad by the 17th and take over half the country. But at this station on this day, it wasn't happening. At the end, the first soldier removes his shirt and starts fanning it in the air, perhaps to flag down a rescue helicopter to save them from the burning building and the hostile crowds around it. The other one we see is doubled over, perhaps coughing out smoke.
That could class as a type of oppression, to a fevered enough imagination. Certainly if they had pushed the the crowd back enough to force an escape from the inferno, they robbed the crowd of the right to "express themselves" by claiming their burnt corpses later as regime victims, who were torched "for refusing to fire on potesters". It would have been true, in a roundabout way.
(note: the rebels' right to fob off their own crimes like that has been upheld in the court of public opinion.)