4:00pm Cairo - In the face of unrelenting violence from Mubarak's thugs, protesters have come roaring back with a massive "Day of Departure" demonstration today as the White house scrambles to work out a deal in which Mubarak would leave immediately. Waving Egyptian flags and chanting the national anthem, protesters in their thousands are filling Tahrir or Liberation Square in Cairo as Friday pray lets out. More than a million people are reported to have flooded into Liberation Square, another million are reported in Alexandria and the numbers are still growing. Thongs of protesters can still be seen crossing the Nile River at the October 6th Bridge into Liberation Square. In the face of all the death, destruction and injury cause by the Mubarak regime in the past few days, the masses remain steadfast in their demand that "Mubarak must go now!"
The peaceful protests that millions of Egyptians have participated in Cairo and other places since January 25th have been marked by violence since the massive Million Man March that turned out an estimated 4 million anti-Mubarak protesters on Tuesday as they were attacked by pro-government thugs. The festive mood that had characterized the rallies from January 25th to February 1st had changed to one of fear and anger as Liberation Square became a battleground and the peaceful protesters camped overnight had to fight off gangs of thugs made up of Mubarak's security forces and NDP hacks. Some of these thugs rode into Tahrir Square Wednesday riding horses and camels, beating protesters with clubs and whips. Later they used rebar, swords, fire bombs and Molotov cocktails, gun fire and even automatic weapons to kill at least 13 people and injure more than 800 more.
They also attempt to clear the field of foreign journalists so that their crimes would not be reported. All across Egypt news people from Al Jazeera, CNN, BBC, France24, Al-Arabiya, ABC News, CBS News and many more had their people beaten up by thugs, arrested by government agents and had their equipment either confiscated or damaged. More than 50 attacks on the press were reported in the past couple of days. Earlier, Al Jazeera was told that it could no longer broadcast or report in Egypt. They have managed to continue to broadcast live from Cairo and other places in Egypt but they have had to do so secretly and with inferior equipment. Many of their people have been beaten, arrested or kidnapped, and they have had equipment destroyed, seized or stolen but their live feed has continued to be the major conduit of information on Egypt's revolution for the world.
Reports at this hour from both Cairo and Alexandria are that the pro-Mubarak forces are nowhere to be found. They have all but disappeared. The army seems to have a different attitude too. Late yesterday they repositioned some tanks among the protesters as the new Vice President Omar Suleiman promised that demonstrators would not be fired on today. Today the army has set up check points at every major entrance to Tahrir Square and are carefully checking everyone entering the square for weapons or explosives. In some cases, they are working with protesters to secure the square and check people.
The question on everyone's mind going into today has been "Would the spirit of the Egyptian people hold despite the violence." So much had happened since the big rallies on Tuesday, the turnout for today's rallies was uncertain.
Tuesday was like a celebration in the park for an estimated 2 million anti-Mubarak protesters in and around Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. As the army looked on but checked people entering the square for weapons, the city center started filling up with protesters in the early morning. It was the first time in seven days of protest that many from the various neighborhoods felt able to venture to the square. By Tuesday, neighborhood patrols were in place well enough to secure their homes and possessions against roving bands of criminals and looters. Many more felt it safe to leave home and join the movement.
The numbers swelled as a result and not only in Cairo, but in Alexandria where over a million anti-government protesters turned out, in Suez where a quarter million turned out, Sinai, Mansoura, Damnhour, Arish, Tanta, el-Mahalla and el-Kubra all had mass protests as well.
In Tahrir Square the mood had been festive all day. The chants for Mubarak to leave were loud and the banners were colorful. Many people had gotten their first taste of self-organization only days before in establishing the defenses of their neighborhoods. Now they were here in the center of Cairo inventing the future of Egypt.
More than a million people in the square and yet some people said they had never seen it so litter free. Young people would circulate among the crowds collecting trash with the call "Donations for the NDP, donations for the NDP." Women said they had never felt so respected and free in Egypt. As the number of protesters swelled, some took up the tasks of food preparation and water distribution. They were protesting their tyrannical government and caring for each other, creating the future of their country while they did it. It was a historic and beautiful day. Then it turned ugly.
The Empire Struck Back: Mubarak Sent in the Thugs
Late in the evening Hosni Mubarak made a defiant speech promising to serve out the rest of this Presidential term and to "die on Egyptian soil" Then pro Mubarak forces that had been gathering up moved to violent confrontation with the pro-democracy protesters in Alexandria and Cairo. Mubarak hoped to create a climate of chaos so that fear would drive people off of the streets and back into their homes.
After the January 25th protest the police were first used to suppress the protesters in the usual manner, with intimidation and violence that left at least five people dead and 150 wounded. By the end of Friday pray a week ago it was clear that tactic wasn't working. Some of the police were starting to join the protesters.
The police were withdrawn. The army was sent in to protect selected sites but most neighborhood went without protection. Many criminals escaped from jail. Looting started to be big problem in the neighborhoods. Suddenly protesters out in the streets had to worry about the situation at home. Vandalism and looting was going on in the neighborhoods. Their families weren't safe.
After the criminals somehow got out of jail, the government hoped that the mayhem they were creating would cause the people to assent to the return of the old order. It didn't work. Since January 25th, the Egyptian people have a new sense of empowerment. They set up neighborhood patrols and road blocks. By Tuesday they were able to leave a small force behind to secure each neighborhood while the majority, men, women and children, felt safe to attend the rallies.
The regime's response to the overwhelming success of the Million Man March on Tuesday was to send in the thugs. Mubarak was able to mobilize thousands of his own supports and not all were thugs. Some were genuine Mubarak supporters or NDP Party loyalists and functionaries and not all of those were thugs. Many where there because they were promised 200 lbs and paid 50 up front, many were police or govt security personnel in plain clothes, this became clear from the volume of captured ID's, many oil workers had been told by their bosses to come, and in at least one case a company promised to make it's temp workers permanent if they joined in. Such was the 'organic' nature of the pro-Mubarak forces and explains why it took many days for them to assemble and show themselves.
For two horrific days they made mayhem and murder in Cairo and Alexandria as they went as far as hurdling fire bombs down on protesters and spraying them with machine gun fire. In Cairo, their aim was to drive the anti-Mubarak people out of Liberation Square. The protesters barricaded themselves and fought back with such weapons as they could fabricate or capture and they never left the square. Today, those pro-Mubarak forces seem to have evaporated and the people are having a glorious "Day of Departure" rally that no doubt, will send Mubarak on his way.
A struggle of wills that is incredibly important for the future of all humanity has been won. Mubarak's campaign of terror has failed. Liberation Square held. That battle has been won!
Just tweeted in 8:22pm Cairo time. Seven demand of the protesters in Tahrir Square:
1. Resignation of the president
2. End of the Emergency State
3. Dissolution of The People's Assembly and Shora Council
4. Formation of a national transitional government
5. An elected Parliament that will amend the Constitution to allow for presidential elections
6. Immediate prosecution for those responsible of the deaths of the revolution's martyrs
7. Immediate prosecution of the corrupters and those who robbed the country of its wealth.