As we watch the Million Person March in Egypt, reports are that the protesters are energized and upbeat.
6:10am The latest update from one of our correspondents reporting from the centre of Cairo:
The protesters seem to be increasingly energised this morning. They clearly are determined to get today’s march sta[r]ting with a big bang. The atmosphere on Tahrir Square is very good. People seem to feel that some sort of victory is the air.
While Mubarak is trying to minimize the turnout by shutting down trains, turning off mobile phones and taking down the only remaining internet connection, Nour, which is used by Egyptian financial networks, his efforts are not working. Just a short while ago, I heard CNN’s Ben Wedeman say that “people are walking from the Nile Delta towns to Cairo,” an amazing sign of how much this effort means to so many in Egypt.
And for all that technology and social media have helped to build this movement, this mobilization, street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood is an important lesson for us all that personal, local connections remain powerful. There’s no silencing this call for Freedom.
On Monday, the crowd in Tahrir Square was “festive” reports Mohamed Elmashad in Al Masry Al Youm:
… families came out en masse, while many of the now-seasoned protesters appeared more relaxed, singing their slogans rather than chanting with anger.
“I’m having fun,” 13-year-old Mariam said. She was rollerblading on the street, while her parents, Ramy and Maha chatted and joked with old friends. Nabil, Mariam’s 15-year-old cousin, was also out enjoying the sunny Monday afternoon, despite having had his first taste of tear gas days earlier. “It was horrible, but today is totally different,” he said.
Mahmoud Gamal has been camped out in the square for four days, having participated in the protests everyday since the 25 January Day of Anger. The mood among the protesters has fluctuated on a day-to-day basis, he said. “It was extremely hopeful and surreal at first, then there were a few days that felt like an all-out war. After that it was tense. Today feels more like a carnival.”
People felt free to sing the chants accompanied by musical instruments, while using characteristic Egyptian humor, something most protesters had refrained from in the much graver past few days. One sign told Mubarak to, “Leave already! My hands hurt from holding this up!”
…Street artists took advantage of the atmosphere to display their talents. One group of activists were writing down different messages on the street and then coordinating their chants according to the messages. “These messages are meant for the helicopters, because we know that they have cameras up there,” said Khalil Salamah.
No one can be certain how Mubarak and his thugs will react to the march – and the day may be very serious indeed. The people of Egypt are well aware of the risk:
We are all Khaled Said Just saw a footage on Aljazeera where protesters in Tahreer have dressed in white shrouds used to cover the dead & written on it: Ready to die peacefully for Egypt.
The protesters know the risk but they also know they are winning:
At 1:14 [of this AJ video of “voices from the square”] the speaker to the crowd says the following:
“People everyday tune into morning TV, and they see that ordinary Egyptians are still on the streets. And that they are brave….and God willing, we’ll be out here on the streets. And please know that you’re not alone.The Angels are protecting you.
Are you scared?
[crowd yells NO!]
“I wanna tell you that Hosni Mubarak is afraid and terrified. The whole administration is terrified.”
While the protesters prepare, Obama and his administration continue to waffle. Bloomberg has the headline “Obama Seeks to Support Protesters Without Repudiating Mubarak” but at least we now hear that the White House is watching Al Jazeera – perhaps they will learn something. [cont’d.]
If the White House is still dithering, the Financial Times – not exactly a rabid DFH publication (though my favorite and only newspaper) had a remarkable lead editorial “Time to end the Arab exception” on Monday. Obama could learn a lot by reading it as well: (subscription req):
The Mubarak regime is at the centre of a network of regional strongmen the west has backed and bankrolled to secure stability in a neuralgic region, guaranteed oil supplies and the safety of Israel. As waves of democracy have burst over almost every other tyrant-plagued region in the past 30 years, the US and Europe have connived in an Arab exception – and Egypt is its exemplar…
But what shallow realists in the west fail to grasp is that the risk grows greater the longer these corrupt regimes, incapable of meeting the aspirations of their young populations, remain in power. Instability is certain; it is the future that is up for grabs. For now, it is young, mostly secular democrats who have taken a courageous initiative in the streets. They deserve support.
Instead of propping up tyrants for short-term and often illusory gains, western policy needs to find ways of stimulating the forces in Arab society that might eventually replace them. After the 9/11 attack on America, a misguided “they-hate-us-for-our-freedoms” industry emerged. No. What Arabs and Muslims hate is western support for those who deny them their freedoms…
It is for the Egyptians (and the Arabs) to claw their way out of the pit of autocracy. The least they can expect from the west is to stop stamping on their fingers.
To take us into Tuesday, here’s a great video which reminds us that the message of Tahrir Square is not just for Egypt but for us all. The music is from the Flobots.
“El sha’ab yureed eskat el nezam”!
(“the people want to collapse the [current] system”).