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PROTEST SWELLS February 10, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Middle East, North Africa.
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After fifteen days of nationwide, but concentrated protests, the Egyptian Government and its power elite continues in office. The protest has not died down and the challenge to the power of the ruling elite, and their foreign backers, has increased.

Al Jazeera reports:

The Egyptian cabinet building in Cairo has been evacuated and officials relocated after pro-democracy protesters gathered outside, sources tell Al Jazeera. Pro-democracy demonstrations are gaining momentum in the Egyptian capital, with some protesters moving from Tahrir [Liberation] Square to camp out in the area outside the parliament buildings.

Protesters are demanding the assembly’s immediate dissolution. Wednesday’s developments came as public rallies calling for Hosni Mubarak to hand over power immediately entered their sixteenth day. . . Outside parliament, protesters gathered on Wednesday with blankets and had no plan to move, our correspondent reported. The demonstrators have a sign put up that says: “Closed until the fall of the regime”.

Meanwhile, labour unions across Egypt, mobilised by the pro-democracy momentum, were staging strikes demanding higher wages and better treatment from their employers. Strikes were taking place nationwide, including in Mahalla and Suez. Numbers are said to have reached around 10,000 workers at various factories in different cities over the past 24 hours, Al Jazeera correspondents reported.

Tahrir Square resembled a tented city on Wednesday, as protests – attended by many first-timers – reached some of their highest numbers on Tuesday. Many feel this showed that the movement, now in its third week, still has momentum. Protesters are “more emboldened by the day and more determined by the day”, Ahmad Salah, an Egyptian activist, told Al Jazeera from Cairo on Wednesday. “This is a growing movement, it’s not shrinking.”

. . . Many newcomers who joined Cairo’s protesters said they had been inspired in part by the release of Wael Ghonim, the Google executive, previously held by state security authorities. Ghonim was the person behind a page called “We are all Khaled Said” on the social networking site Facebook, which is being credited for helping spark the uprising in Egypt. Amr Fatouh, a surgeon, said he had joined the protests for the first time.

“I hope people will continue and more people will come. At first, people did not believe the regime would fall but that is changing,” he said.

I suspect that when a police state can no longer resort to mass violence because of the constraints of scale and visibility, it’s power over the population may critically wain. At this point the violent repressive power of the Egyptian state, supported and enhanced by its international backers, is not to be underestimated, but now it has less free rein. If it were exercised it would attract an international reaction. The wonder is how things have reached this stage going back to the individual act of resistance of Mohamed Abouzizzi in Tunisia.

ELSEWHERE:

At The Independent, Robert Fisk is writing that the repressive reach of the State will not easily be dismantled.

Paul Woodward at War in Context raised the question: What sort of democracy supports a dictatorship? The question should have been: What sought of democracy promotes a dictatorship and vicious police state? Clearly, as with many actions and stances, these policies are not approved by the people at large but rather by entrenched interests. They are important questions for the citizens of any democracy.

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