By Leila Fadel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 30, 2011; 12:14 AM
CAIRO - In a dusty alleyway in downtown Cairo, Gamal Mohammed Manshawi held out a dirty plastic bag Saturday afternoon. Inside were smashed gas canisters and the casings of rubber bullets that he said Egyptian police had fired at anti-government demonstrators.
"You see," the 50-year-old lawyer said, displaying the items. On the bottom of each were the words "Made in the USA."
"They are attacking us with American weapons," he yelled as men gathered around him.
In the streets of Cairo, many protesters are now openly denouncing the United States for supporting President Hosni Mubarak, saying the price has been their freedom. They say the Obama administration has offered only tepid criticism of a regime that has received billions of dollars in U.S. aid.
The United States walks a fine line between a weakened leader and the pro-democracy protesters who could overthrow him. But the prospect of Mubarak being ousted by a movement that feels ignored by the United States raises questions about future relations between Washington and a strategic ally in a volatile region of the world.
"Tell America that we get to choose our president," Manshawi said. "We choose him, not them."
Many protesters said they were stirred by the death of Khaled Said, an activist who was beaten to death by security forces last year. He became a symbol of abuse at the hands of the security forces under Mubarak.
"We want a government elected by the people, not a government dictated to the people," said Mohammed Ramadan, 40, an accountant who was demonstrating along the Nile on Saturday, as he has for the past five days.
The police retreated Saturday, pushed back by waves of demonstrators. The Egyptian army was deployed to the streets, a victory in the eyes of the people here, and the calls for Mubarak's ouster grew stronger.
U.S. officials "speak about their own interest, not ours," said Ahmed Abu Dunia, who said he planned to demonstrate every day until Mubarak is gone. "The Egyptians love Egypt."
When protesters first took to the streets Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that "our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable." On Saturday, several protesters noted that she did not address the government's human rights record or the attacks by police to break up the gatherings.
The administration's remarks have grown more forceful. On Friday, President Obama said he had asked Mubarak to live up to promises to reform.
But protesters who were demanding their rights said that was not enough.
"We didn't expect much from the United States," said Abdel Nasser Awad, 40, who said he was demonstrating for his son's future. "We are not people looking for war. We are looking for freedom."
He added that he hoped the international community, including the United States, would force Mubarak out soon so that chaos would not engulf the nation. On Saturday, looters flooded several neighborhoods across the city.
In Tahrir Square, where the largest protests in Cairo have taken place, people said they thought Mubarak's resignation might be near, not because of the United States but in spite of it. Many here said that if Obama turned his back on Mubarak, he would have to step down.
"We believe America is against us," said Emad Abdel Halim, 31. "Until now, Obama didn't talk to the Egyptian people. He didn't support the Egyptian people."
"Tell Obama to forget about Mubarak," said Islam Rashid, 26. "He is done."