More than 1 Million Protesters Flood Egypt’s Streets
More than a million Egyptians flooded the streets of cities across the nation today, most of them in Cairo, for the planned pre-democracy “march of a million.”
The protesters gathered in Cairo’s historic Tahrir Square, calling for president Hosni Mubarak to resign. For his part, Mubarak has announced that he will not run for office again in scheduled sham elections this September.
That announcement, while cheered by Egyptians, was largely symbolic since the 82-year-old was not expected to seek “re-election” anyway. It appears to be a ploy designed to give him another few months in office.
Protesters weren’t buying it; they won’t be happy until Mubarak is gone. Political activist Gigi Ibrahim told Al-Jazeera that “every day there are more numbers on the street than the day before. I think the protests are gaining momentum. The people… will literally not leave until Mubarak steps down.”
Despite being urged by state television to stay at home for their own safety, the squares and streets of the capital were overflowing with demonstrators. The atmosphere is being described as “festival-like” and “communal,” with protesters coming from all walks of life. They are buoyed by the army’s announcement that it will not harm peaceful protesters and will respect Egyptians’ “freedom of expression.”
“To the great people of Egypt, your armed forces, acknowledging the legitimate rights of the people, have not and will not use force against the Egyptian people,” an army statement said.
Meanwhile, opposition figures and political parties are growing bolder and more vocal with each passing day of the crisis. Wafd, one of the nation’s oldest parties, announced an agreement to form a “national front” in the face of Mubarak’s “lost legitimacy.” The banned Muslim Brotherhood has been making pronouncements as well, including one that says it will not negotiate with the Mubarak regime.
Britain’s Telegraph reports that leading opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei, Nobel Peace laureate and former head of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency, has met with top army brass to plan a transition from the Mubarak regime to a yet-to-be determined system of government.