In a test of wills that seemed to be approaching a critical juncture, hundreds of thousands of people crammed into Cairo’s vast Tahrir Square on Tuesday, seeking to muster a million protesters demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
Their mood was jubilant, and the crowd offered a remarkable tapestry of Egypt’s society, from the most westernized to the most traditional, from young women with babies to old men with canes.
Tahrir Square for some has assumed some of the symbolic importance of Tiananmen Square. But, in marked contrast, a uniformed military spokesman declared on state television that "the armed forces will not resort to use of force against our great people." He declared that the military understood "the legitimacy of your demands" and "affirms that freedom of expression through peaceful means is guaranteed to everybody."
A roar of celebration rose up immediately from the crowd in the square, where a television displayed the news.
by Nicholas D. Kristof
As I stand in Tahrir Square, the yearning and hopefulness of these Egyptians taking huge risks is intoxicating.
"I’m going home right now to get food and drinks for the demonstrators," Waheed Hussein told me as he hopped into his car, allowing a hitchhiker to jump in. With great pride, the two new friends explained that this would be their contribution to the birth of an authentic Egyptian democracy.
Tahrir Square has suddenly become the most exhilarating place in the world.
Yet one thing nags at me. These pro-democracy protesters say overwhelmingly that America is on the side of President Mubarak and not with them. Everywhere I go, Egyptians insist to me that Americans shouldn’t perceive their movement as a threat. And I find it sad that Egyptians are lecturing Americans on the virtues of democracy.
"We need your support," pleaded Dr. Mahmood Hussein, a physiology professor. "We need freedom."
We owe it to the brave men and women of Tahrir Square and to our own history and values to make one thing very clear: We stand with the peaceful throngs pleading for democracy, not with those who menace them.
CAIRO - A massive and highly expectant crowd of pro-democracy demonstrators converged on this capital city's central plaza Tuesday, energized by the belief that their week-old movement is on the verge of ousting President Hosni Mubarak.
By late afternoon, hundreds of thousands of cheering people packed every inch of Tahrir Square, with supporters still streaming in from every direction and filling the surrounding broad avenues of downtown.
Flag-waving demonstrators held signs, hand-written in Arabic and English, that read "Game over" and "checkmate." Groups of protesters chanted joyously against the president, their words reverberating across the city: "Mubarak, wake up! Today is your last!"
Protesters called on the Obama administration to explicitly back their cause, and to help them force Mubarak out.
"Washington has been very anxious about what's happening here. But it shouldn't be anxious. It should be happy," said Mohammed Fouad, 29, a software engineer. "This will reduce terrorism. When people have their voice, they don't need to explode themselves."
Just so and incredibly well said. Godspeed.