Egypt protesters pack Tahrir Square as unrest enters its 8th day

The Washington Post's Will Englund reports from the streets of Cairo, where tanks blocked roads leading to Tahrir Square on Tuesday ahead of a planned march to demand the removal of President Hosni Mubarak. Several protesters spent the night at the square, which has become the epicenter of the demonstrations. (Feb. 1)
Tuesday, February 1, 2011; 11:41 AM

Egyptian protesters calling for the resignation of President Mubarak packed Tahrir Squre for the 8th day of unrest, as Griff Witte reported:

Hundreds of thousands of cheering demonstrators packed this capital city's central plaza Tuesday, triumphantly predicting that their week-old pro-democracy movement was on the verge of ousting long-time President Hosni Mubarak.

Unlike last week's demonstrations, when police clashed violently with protesters, the atmosphere in jam-packed Tahrir Square was almost carnival-like. Flag-waving demonstrators held signs that read "Game over" and "checkmate." Groups of protesters chanted, "Mubarak, wake up! Today is your last!"

Several demonstrators carried a fake coffin with the words "Hosni Mubarak" written on it. When a huge banner was strung up between two lamp posts, declaring, "Get Out," people cheered. Together, two men held up an Egyptian flag that had been written on. In English, it said, "Get out. OK." In Arabic, it said, "Mubarak doesn't understand Arabic."

Live Blog: Follow the Egypt protests live

Dan Eggen explained that the Mubarak government's lobbyists have a strong presence in Washington:

After Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak renewed a draconian security law last year, a bipartisan group of 15 U.S. senators pushed legislation condemning the country's record on human rights and free elections.

But the nonbinding resolution went nowhere thanks to a concerted and intense lobbying campaign by Egypt and its U.S. lobbyists. The measure's backers failed in a last-ditch attempt to pass the resolution in the waning days of the last Congress, just weeks before massive protests broke out on the streets of Cairo.

"They would view something like that as an unwarranted intrusion into their affairs, to the level of a grand insult," said former Connecticut congressman Toby Moffett (D), one of Egypt's chief U.S. lobbyists. "It was a very big deal to them."

The episode underscores the deep and long-standing clout enjoyed by Egypt in Washington, which hands out about $2 billion in military and other foreign aid to the Arab nation each year. Egypt spends nearly $2 million annually on lobbying and public relations efforts in the United States, much of it focused on maintaining the two nations' uneasy alliance.

Some American lawmakers have come forward in support of the protesters, Senator Kerry being the latest as Paul Kane and Felicia Somnez reported:

By Tuesday morning, only three lawmakers had called for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step aside, although the latest call -- made by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) -- could signal that more are on the way.

"President Hosni Mubarak must accept that the stability of his country hinges on his willingness to step aside gracefully to make way for a new political structure," Kerry wrote in a New York Times op-ed article published Tuesday morning. "One of the toughest jobs that a leader under siege can perform is to engineer a peaceful transition. But Egyptians have made clear they will settle for nothing less than greater democracy and more economic opportunities."

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