Egypt (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Will a Million March? – Scott Lucas

2150 GMT: Majid Nawaz, chair of Guilliam Foundation, says, “Hosni Mubarak is in denial.” Adds that Mubarak has become a liability for Egypt, a liability for negotiations with the opposition and a liability for his allies, the US and Israel.

2147 GMT: Twitter user @SandMonkey, who is in Tahrir Square in Cairo, tweets that more people are joining the protests there instead of going back.

2120 GMT: While the protesters’ reaction to the Mubarak speech is the lead story tonight, the 2nd story may be the breakdown of talks between US officials and the Egyptian President.

It was notable tonight that there was a delay of more than an hour between the announcement that Mubarak was about to speak and his actual appearance. In that hour, Obama’s people not only put out the news that the President — through the envoy Frank Wisner — had asked Mubarak to refrain from standing for re-election in September, they added to reporters that they had asked Mubarak to rule out any campaign by his son Gamal.

The White House delayed a press briefing, expecting to welcome a suitable Mubarak announcement, but time dragged on. The Egyptian President did not appear, and the White House press briefing was scrubbed.

Whether Mubarak rewrote his speech in that hour is not known, but his defiance and refusal to announce a transition was not a rejection of the millions of his people who turned out today. It was also a rebuff to the US Government.

Protesters in Tahrir Square were screaming, “Not enough!”, as they heard the speech. I’m begging some folks in Washington were doing so as well.

2117 GMT: The clamour continues from Tahrir Square.

2109 GMT: Protesters in Tahrir Square were heckling Mubarak speech as it was being given yelling “Erhal (Leave)”. Loud chanting now from the square.

2106 GMT: Mubarak reiterates he will serve out his term — “I pray to God” to help me ensure Egyptian stability and future.

And he then returns to his pride in his years of service to his “motherland” Egypt, speaking of his defence of his country. “I will die on the soil of Egypt, and I will be judged by history on my merits.”

2105 GMT: Mubarak calls on police to enforce security, cracking down on looters and arsonists.

2104 GMT: Mubarak calls on Parliament to debate his “reform” legislation, including constitutional amendments allowing more candidates to run for President, and to abide by court judgements on recent Parliamentary elections.

2102 GMT: Mubarak says he does not intend to run in September but intends to “end his career” in service to nation with stability and order.

2100 GMT: Mubarak says choice was between “chaos” and “stability”. He immediately formed new government with new responsibilities to respond to demands and instructed Prime Minister to embark on new reforms.

However, “certain political forces turned a blind eye” and refused to accept these choices. Mubarak thus addresses people directly, talking about his sacrifices for the country in the past and responsibility for peaceful transition to “safeguard the people” in the present.

2055 GMT: Hosni Mubarak begins speaking, talking about how peaceful protest regretfully turned to violence, looting, pillaging, and assault on private and public property including storm of some diplomatic missions.

2010 GMT: The chant from Tahrir Square in Cairo as the crowd await President Mubarak’s speech on the large-screen TVs which have been set up: “Freedom! May God make it happen! May it be tonight!”

1930 GMT: But the really important news this evening is that the protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo have organised a football tournament with the Army.

1915 GMT: Back from academic break to find that President Mubarak will be addressing the Egyptian nation tonight on a “solution” to the crisis. Will he be stepping down? Promising not to run for re-election in September (and, if so, indicating that his son Gamal will also not be a candidate)? Offering gestures of reform?

Al Arabiya is going for the second option, with the President ruling out a sixth term. US Government sources are bolstering that by saying that President Obama has asked Mubarak to stand down in September (which would match our analysis this morning). The New York Times summarises:

 

The message was conveyed to Mr. Mubarak by Frank G. Wisner, a seasoned former diplomat with deep ties to Egypt, these officials said. Mr. Wisner’s message, they said, was not a blunt demand for Mr. Mubarak to step aside now, but firm counsel that he should make way for a reform process that would culminate in free and fair elections in September to elect a new Egyptian leader.

 

The Government has been scrambling to recover ground on other fronts. Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq has been saying that, after 25 January, Egyptians are now free to speak their minds (which begs the question of what the regime was doing before the 25th), and Minister of Finance Samir Radwan has promised that the Government would reactivate cash machines to pay civil servants and pensioners from Wednesday.

1655 GMT: We’ll be on an academic break until 1900 GMT. Live coverage continues on the Live Feed from Al Jazeera English.

1645 GMT: State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley has confirmed via Twitter that the US Ambassador to Egypt, Margaret Scobey, met with Mohamed ElBaradei today (see 1545 GMT). Even more interesting is the note by John Rugman of Britain’s Channel 4, “Very reliable source tells me US Ambassador spoke to Mubarak today — and that he said he wasn’t leaving.”

1630 GMT: The masses in Tahrir Square are singing the national anthem over and over. The same chants and scenes are occurring in Alexandria.

1620 GMT: The Times Are A-Changin’ — the US Government’s Radio Sawa is interviewing Essam El Erian, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.

1610 GMT: More from Jordan on King Abdullah’s dismissal (see 1315 GMT) of the Government of Prime Minister Samir Rifai….

Abdullah has selected Marouf al-Bakhit, a former general and ambassador to Israel and Turkey, to replace Rifai. The official announcement said al-Bakhit would have the task of “taking practical, swift and tangible steps to start a real political reform process, in line with the king’s version of comprehensive reform, modernization and development”. Bakhit and the new Cabinet were also to “bolster democracy” and proceed “with nation building that opens the scope for broad accomplishment to all dear sons or our country and secure them the safe and dignified life they deserve”.

1600 GMT: Ayman Mohyeldin of Al Jazeera English, who had been broadcasting anonymously from Tahrir Square in Cairo because of fears of retribution by the authorities, is now not only identifying himself but doing so prominently to camera.

Meanwhile, Egyptian State TV is broadcasting news of the first meeting of the new Cabinet, with an interview with the new Prime Minister, Ahmad Shafiq, about the composition and priorities of the new government. There is also a walkabout with Mahmoud Wagdy, the new Minister of Interior, in the New Cairo neighbourhood, where he promoted a new initiative, “Police Serving the People”.

1545 GMT: Back to an academic break to find latest developments….

The US Ambassador, Margaret Scobey, has reportedly met with Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the National Association for Change and the designated spokesman for the opposition coalition.

AFP has a slightly different version, with Scobey phoning ElBaradei to say, “The US is interested in a political change in Egypt, but the US government won’t dictate the path which Cairo must follow.”

The atmosphere at the large rally in Tahrir Square in Cairo continues to be “very friendly”, despite the strains of a huge crowd in one place.

Protest organisers have decided not to lead a march upon the Presidential Palace because of the heavy presence of security blocking the roads and surrounding the complex. Instead, protesters will remain in Tahrir until the fall of Hosni Mubarak.

Cell phones, despite earlier reports that they would be cut off, continue to operate.

Hundreds of thousands of others are marching in Alexandria, Suez, and other cities.

1350 GMT: The demonstrations in Tahrir Square in Cairo and in other cities continue to grow and are marked by a peaceful enthusiasm.

We will be on an academic break until 1530 GMT. Coverage continues via our Live Feed from Al Jazeera English.

1320 GMT: Al Jazeera is now putting out estimates of more than 2 million in Tahrir Square in Cairo.

The military is putting up barbed wire around the Presidential Palace in Heliopolis.

1315 GMT: In Jordan, King Abdullah has dismissed the Government of Prime Minister Samir Rafai and asked a former Army general to form a Cabinet.

Abdullah’s move comes after a series of demonstrations by thousands of Jordanians called for Rifai’s resignation amidst rises in fuel and food prices and a lack of political reform.

Abdullah nominated Marouf al-Bakhit to replace Rifai.

1215 GMT: Over to Tunisia for a follow-up. Thomas v. der Osten-Sacken reports on developments on Monday:

 

Just came back from center of city. Some spontaneous demonstrations with maybe 1500 young people (mixed female and male) roam around. Peaceful and in a very good mood. No police at all seen. No tension at all in Ave. Bourghiba. People shout “Long live freedom” and “Vive La Revolution” and sing national anthem. 

Meanwhile shops and cafes are open. A new grafitto seen: “People and police against dictatorship”. This morning we have seen no plainclothes at all. Police are not wearing helmets anymore.

People we talked too are happy the eight ministers of [former ruling party] RCD resigned. Now they demand calm, because they want investors and tourists back.

Strong sentiment for a new Parliamentary secular constitution. The people are fed up with “Arab exceptionalism”. They just want democracy, freedom, development, and to be part of modernity. They even don’t call it an intifada.

1200 GMT: A journalist tells Al Jazeera that 250,000 are demonstrating in Suez (pop: 600,000).

1155 GMT: As a helicopter flies low over Tahrir Square, the crowd wave and shout, “Get out!

Ayman Mohyeldin of Al Jazeera speaks eloquently of how people have been moved, some to tears: “The more people see, the more they believe.”

1140 GMT: Essam El Erian, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, has joined other opposition figures (see 1120 and 1130 GMT) on television to demand the resignation of the President: “We refuse to talk to Mubarak or [Vice President] Suleiman. We demand a new Constitution.”

1135 GMT: A scene this morning from Tahrir Square — Mahmoud Saad, the prominent Egyptian TV presenter who resigned his position in protest, was carried across the square on the shoulders of the crowd.

1130 GMT: Appearing on Al Arabiya, Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the National Association for Change, has called on President Mubarak to step down to avoid bloodshed.

1125 GMT: Egyptian State TV is showing footage of a quiet 6th of October Bridge — little more than a mile from the crowds in Tahrir Square — with a few cars and people crossing.

1120 GMT: A spokesman for the Wafd Party has said that opposition groups have agreed on a joint statement to be issued soon. He added that the President’s legitimacy is ended and called for a coalition government.

1118 GMT: “Hundreds of thousands” are reported on the streets in Alexandria.

1115 GMT: The rally continues — very loudly — in Tahrir Square.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has said that unconfirmed reports suggest up to 300 people may have been killed during the protests.

 

Pillay issued the statement,”I urge the Egyptian authorities to ensure police and other security forces scrupulously avoid excessive use of force, and there needs to be a full investigation into the role of security forces in the violence that occurred over the past few days.”

1052 GMT: Army around the Presidential Palace is checking each car at roadblocks, with “only 5 or 6” passing through in last hour. A correspondent says “this is creating havoc”.

The correspondent adds that tension is rising between the military and the public. There is “no way” that a march from Tahrir will get anywhere near the Palace.

1043 GMT: CNN’s Nic Robertson says a crowd is gathering in Alexandria to march.

Al Jazeera English’s shot panning across Tahrir Square confirms that there are more people there than at any point in the crisis. A correspondent: “There is hardly a place to walk.”

An announcement by loudspeaker tells the crowd that more than 1 million are now in the square.

1040 GMT: An Al Jazeera correspondent from Tahrir Square says that he sees a “sea of people” approaching, “I cannot see the end of the crowd from where I am standing.”

1035 GMT: Al Jazeera reports that “thousands” of foreigners are fleeing, boarding special flights home.

“People holding tickets had difficulties getting on the plane, because the airport in Cairo is pure chaos,” Tristin Hutton, a Canadian tourist, said.

1020 GMT: A significant message from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan both to the protesters and to President Mubarak, “I tell the Egyptian people that democracy is your right….The President should listen to demands of people….We have never believed chaos or radicalism can come out of democracy….I tell Mubarak as a brother none of us will live for ever. We don’t want any bloodshed.”

Erdogan also revealed that President Obama had called him to discuss the situation.

1000 GMT: Report from Tahrir Square, “Army is throwing flyers to crowd that say they will protect people.”

It is also reporting that planes are dropping flyers with the same message.

0955 GMT: Dan Nolan again from Tahrir Square bringing a protester’s declaration via loudspeaker, “We’re looking for a leader who’s stupid, oppressive, and been here 30 years. If you find him, please take him to the airport.”

0945 GMT: In another blow to the government’s stubborn hold on power in the name of stability, Al Jazeera via AFP reports, “There is no money at the banks. Fuel is scarce. Tourism is evaporating.” How long can the government hold on with its reluctance costing the country so much?

0940 GMT: Dan Nolan of Al Jazeera tweets from Tahrir Square in Cairo:

“Hey hey, Hosni is leaving tonight” is another chant now. Everyone says if numbers big enough they’ll march to Pres Palace tonight!

Down in Tahrir the crowds chant “The army, the people are one” Some soldiers reply “We are with u we are with u” Amazing scenes!!!
Earlier, the Army officials had said that they won’t use force to disperse protesters. 

0935 GMT: The BBC is reporting that foreign journalists leaving Egypt are facing a new problem. Apparently, their equipment is being confiscated by authorities at Cairo Airport. No reason has been given for this yet.

0930 GMT: Al Jazeera reports:

The head of Al Wafd party is to hold a press briefing in half an hour. Al Wafd is Egypt’s largest liberal opposition party.

0923 GMT: Has world leaders’ reluctance to support democracy in Egypt in the face of the protests had a negative effect? You bet! Khaled elbaydani, an Egyptian calling Speak 2 Tweet, has this to say:

Hello. We don’t want people from the army or the airforce or the navy to rule the country. We only want civilians to rule the country. We are sick of this problem. We have learned our lesson and have woken up, really woken up. This is our country and we are free to do what we want. We don’t want Americans to discuss [this issue] with us or anyone. This is an Egyptian issue, only. Not Israeli or American or any European country or any Jewish countries’. This is an Egyptian matter. When another country elects someone, we don’t get involved. Why are they getting involved with us? They are in the black list. In the black list and they should not enter Egypt, ever.

0915 GMT: Remember the Speak 2 Tweet initiative by Twitter and Google so Egyptians could call and their witness accounts could be turned into tweets? Well, witness how fast people are translating all of those phone calls from Arabic to English by visiting their work sheet here.

Their twitter account with the audio from the calls is here.

 

0850 GMT: More updates from Tahrir Square from AJTalk:

Hundreds Of thousands Flow Into Maydenne Tahreer as we expect A Million people March

People are forming human chains near entrances of Tahrir Sq.- checking people to ensure weapons aren’t brought in

0845 GMT: Egyptian state TV quotes army officials warning people to beware of ‘thugs’ who have stolen army uniforms by breaking into stores that sell them. They also warned people from illegally wearing them.

0840 GMT: Sharif Kouddous is in Tahrir Square in Cairo and tweets on what’s happening:

Wow. It’s 10am and already more people in Tahrir than I have ever seen. And there’s more flooding in Egypt

People are not only picking up trash they are separating for recycling too

JPMLynch tweets on his way to Tahrir:

Two policemen on Qasr al Nil bridge. First I have seen apart from guarding embassies for 2 days

0833 GMT: Al Jazeera now reporting that the army has announced that it will not use force against the protesters. It remains to be seen if they will stand true to their word.

0830 GMT: Already Tahrir Square in Cairo is being filled up with thousands of protesters.Jonathan Rugman of Channel 4 News UK tweets from the scene:

Placard: “Mubarak go to Ben Ali in Saudi, Miss U”. This demo looking huge

Meanwhile the government is not giving up on trying to stop the protests. Sandmonkeytweets:

army shut down Suez road 2 prevent ppl frm Cairo suburbs frm reaching city. I’m now stuck on highway tryin 2 get 2 downtown

0820 GMT: And where are the state security forces in all of this? Well, apparently, nobody likes them… not the army; not the people. Sharif Kouddous tweets from Cairo:

Got searched by at 3 army checkpoints and 5 citizen checkpoints. Frisking an looking at IDs to prevent state security forces in

0815 GMT: There has been a debate raging about the effectiveness of Mubarak’s clamp down on online communication by cutting off internet to the country entirely. An Egyptian blogger passionately makes the protesters’ point:

He asks a friend the following question:

Hey Omar…you know that there many tweets coming in saying he is going to shut down everything tonight…whatever little internet was left and mobiles and landlines even?

To which the friend replies:

O: @#$% the internet! I have not seen it since Thursday and I am not missing it. I don’t need it. No one in Tahrir Square needs it. No one in Suez needs it or in Alex…Go tell Mubarak that the peoples revolution does not need his damn internet!

O: Fuck the internet! I have not seen it since Thursday and I am not missing it. I don’t need it. No one in Tahrir Square needs it. No one in Suez needs it or in Alex…Go tell Mubarak that the peoples revolution does not his damn internet!

0810 GMT: The number of protesters in Tahrir Square as slowly building up in anticipation of today’s “Million Man March” in the country. Nick Kristof of the New York Times tweets:

Protesters are pouring into Tahrir Square. If Mubarak thought cutting off trains wld stop the march, he miscalculated.

0750 GMT: Ben Wedeman of CNN updates, “Small group of pro-Mubarak protesters chanting ‘Yes to the Regime’ below bureau window. Passers-by calling them ‘For Rent’.”

Dan Nolan of Al Jazeera English, who was briefly arrested yesterday, returns to action: “Ok, I’m back on the airwaves, pretty hairy day yest! Soldiers seized cameras, laptops, phones. Now got a Nokia circa 1995 but it’s working.”

0720 GMT: An Al Jazeera producer sends the message, “Morning in Cairo. Crowd steadily filtering into Tahrir. Not big yet, but getting that way. Maybe 2,000+.”

0705 GMT: An EA reader sends in this information….

 

I have heard from a number of expat friends in Cairo that they are planning a solidarity demonstration at 12pm Cairo time outside the US Embassy (or as close as they can get — still cordoned off by the military, I believe). I believe they’re calling for a stronger international response from their own governments.

 

0700 GMT: “Hundreds” are filing into Tahrir Square.

0650 GMT: The Million-Person March has begun. Al Jazeera is interviewing participants who are walking from Abu Zaabal.

The correspondent near Tahrir Square speaks of a “cross-section” of protesters, including women and children, and an enthusiastic atmosphere. The military, which has pledged not to use force against the march, has deployed a line of tanks from Tahrir Square to the Presidential Palace. This includes strongpoints in front of the State TV building, which the march will pass, and at the Palace.

0600 GMT: Frederik Pleitgen of CNN reports, “Just saw pro Mubarak demo for the first time at information ministry. About 50 guys chanting with signs.”

0555 GMT: In our inset, we post a morning image of Cairo, with thousands camping in Tahrir Square. Click the thumbnail for full image.

0550 GMT: Al Jazeera is reporting tens of thousands of people are going to Cairo on foot after train services were stopped by the Government.

0540 GMT: As Egyptians wake to a number of possibilities this morning — the “million-person march”, action to curb the protesters, a US intervention through a special envoy, talks between the regime and opposition — a quick summary of overnight developments.

Egyptian authorities have tried once more to limit communications, closing off the last Internet service provider, Noor Online, and confirming that mobile phone services will be shut down this morning.

News is thus more difficult to obtain and follow. Al Jazeera, which has been the front-line media outlet, was sharply limited yesterday by the arrest of six journalists in Cairo and restrictions on the movements of its other correspondents. The channel was still able to get out updates, mainly audio reports, but these were primarily from the area around Tahrir Square in Cairo.

From the reports we did get, it appears to have been a relatively quiet night. We did hear of the Army firing machine guns in the centre of Alexandria — at whom and for what reason was unclear — but that was about it.

 

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