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Huge Cairo Rally Renews Calls for Mubarak's Ouster

  • Luis Ramirez

Anti-government protesters carry an injured man during clashes in Cairo's Tahrir Square, February 4, 2011

Anti-government protesters carry an injured man during clashes in Cairo's Tahrir Square, February 4, 2011

Tens of thousands of Egyptians gathered in Cairo, Friday, at another rally calling for the immediate ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. There were some clashes and gunfire, but the rally was peaceful overall in its early hours. Mubarak supporters also demonstrated in the Egyptian capital.

Opponents of President Hosni Mubarak called Friday the "day of departure." His supporters called it the "day of loyalty."

Tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators filed into Tahrir Square to show that their demands are not going away. They want Hosni Mubarak to step down immediately - not in seven months when elections are scheduled, as he announced he will do.

In contrast to recent bloody street battles, Friday's rally was mostly peaceful.

Demonstrators chanted slogans calling for the man who has led Egypt for 30 years to leave. Some waved Egyptian flags.

An army helicopter kept watch from the sky, and soldiers deployed in greater numbers. Demonstrators entering the square were checked for identification. Some waited hours to get in.

Among them was Hisham Kassem, a prominent pro-democracy activist. Speaking to VOA by cellphone, he said, "Coming into the square, I stood in the longest queue I have ever stood in in my life. In the past, I've seen Egyptians queue for bread, gas, food. Today, I saw the biggest queue of Egyptians, and they were queuing for freedom."

There were reports of some clashes, and of shots fired in the air as pro-Mubarak demonstrators marched nearby. They were not allowed to enter Tahrir square, and started their own rally at Mustafa Mahmoud Square in another part of the city.

The largely peaceful rally was a sharp contrast to the street battles that have been fought in central Cairo in the last few days. Friday was the 11th day of major protests.

Opposition demonstrators say they will stay at the square until President Mubarak steps down.

The Egyptian president has told the U.S. television network ABC he would like to step down, but that there would be chaos in Egypt if he did.

Timeline of Hosni Mubarak's career