Wednesday, February 2, 2011

March of a Million February 1, 2011

Today over a million, upwards of two million, and according some people 2 and a half million people came to Tahrir Square and the streets leading inwards. The square just couldn’t handle the swell of people. The crowds were dense, and to enter individuals went through several checkpoints set up by the protesters. As the crowed got bigger, more checkpoints were set up farther back to maintain safety. The Egyptian people have shown a collective will, which is absolutely incredible, to maintain peace, order, cleanliness, and sustainability. While there was a military presents, they hardly did much of the hands-on crowd control. At one point today they put on new uniforms with an announcement, which I couldn’t hear over the crowd. One man told us that they announce “these are the new uniforms, any one with the old ones are thieves.

The energy is indescribable. It is clear that people have been camping out on the square for a while. In the grass people are sitting on newspapers and under makeshift tents. In the past days there has been more graffiti on the street and more signs hung up.

At one point today there was a false call that spread instantly that Mubarak left and people erupted in joy. This was quickly quieted down, but for that brief moment there was absolute euphoria. People were hugging, shaking hands, shouting, and clapping. These turned back into invigorated chants against Mubarak when they found out that the news wasn’t true.

It is clear that the crowd overall wants America to know they want the U.S. to stop “keeping their hand on the middle of the stick.” One person I talked to said, “Hillary Clinton said that the government was powerful, but the people are more powerful.”

Another person came up to me as I was leaving and said, “Please, tell you government to support the protesters, it is the only way to prevent fundamentalism against America.”

Other things I have heard were:

“Tell Obama to tell Mubarak to leave”

“We don’t want tyranny”

“We want Mubarak and the cabinet to leave, and a new Parliament”

One Muslim woman came up to us and started yelling passionately at us that “We are not going to be an Islamic state; we will be a normal state.”

Another man talked about how while the church said it would not take part of the protests there are many Christians here. As I wrote about Friday, a young man who was injured wanted to make sure it was known that he was Christian and he is here.

One person I talked to was concerned about what the next step is. He talked about how there is no decision on who will step into leader ship positions at this point. This is certainly true. Yesterday, as a left the square there were chants of “Barad’i! Barad’i!” but I am not sure if his staying in the background is going to bolster his leadership credentials, even if he is the main person al-Jazeera is talking about. Today I received a pamphlet that’s first line read, “Egypt announces it demands a man- Egyptian Nationality-Muslim-pious- and of a good relation with his lord-Fortuious (Standing with Allah)-owner of decisions-No fear except for Allah-loves justice-he has the ability to carry out the program subsequent electoral program for the president of the republic.” While this might be the opinion of some, it is not the expressed opinions of the majority of the people in the square and I highly doubt it is the true opinion of the majority.

We met a man named Ahmed, who lived in California for ten years and returned 3 months ago. He described the corruption that he saw as the reason why the economy is so bad. He showed us a picture of the customs office that he had to go to pick up things he brought back to Egypt from the U.S. I forget the figures he gave about his backsheesh (tips; sometimes a euphemism for bribes) he had to pay the goods he just paid customs for. The place was a mess, and the roads and building were dilapidated. He said he couldn’t believe he was paying so much money for his goods and they didn’t have enough money to maintain the building.

While, every day I have gone to the square since Friday, people have made the point to tell me that the Egyptian people love Americans, but not their government. Today, I had many more people come up to me telling me this, and asking why Obama still hasn’t used clear rhetoric against Mubarak. I have also had people ask me to say on camera my opinion about the rallies and if I feel safe, to which I always give an emphatic “Yes!” This is exactly where I want to be at the moment, not in Cairo International Airport. Even coming home after dark tonight, Beth and I were escorted to our house from the first check point we went through from Giza St. I feel in good hands when in my neighborhood at night and at the rallies during the days

Our escort Mustafa told us that the other night they had caught 3 men trying to rob from the neighborhood. He said they called the army to have the men taken away once they were apprehended. These men who don’t go to the marches and protect their communities they live in are just as important to this revolution as those at the rallies.

While there is some price gauging in my neighborhood, on the square food is being handed out for free or at a discounted price. I have heard rumors that the exchange rate is 12 L.E. per USD (This is no longer the case as of late February 2, once the internet was turned back on.


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