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Eyewitness Report: Protesters Ignore Mubarak Entreaties

Alex Ortiz provided this eyewitness report from Cairo, mid-day January 29.

Egyptian anti-government protesters chant slogans as they gather in Tahrir square in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011. AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis

Las updated 5:00 PM  

CAIRO--The streets of downtown Cairo continue to be a focal point in the unprecedented and ongoing wave of popular uprisings that have swept this country. As of 1:30 PM Cairo time there was still no visible police presence across the vast majority of the city. Indeed, there do not seem to be any signs of government control outside of the streets immediately surrounding the Interior Ministry, only indications of the lack thereof--the burned-out metal carcasses of troop trucks and the lingering burn of tear gas heavy in the air.

Central Security forces have retreated to the Interior Ministry where, aided by the tanks and guns of the army, they continue to hold onto their primary and most visible base of operations in the city.

From conversations with multiple residents of Cairo, it is clear that the anger that brought tens of thousands of people out onto the streets has not dissipated despite President Hosni Mubarak's belated address to the nation late last night.

Instead, his offer to reshuffle the government seems to have enraged people even more, as has Mubarak's claim that he ordered the security services to deal with the demonstrators in a non-violent manner despite the photographic and video evidence to the contrary.

Egyptians I have spoken with today indicate that there will the demonstrations will continue from 3:00 PM today. On my way through Cairo, I witnessed a group of around five or six hundred protestors marching across a bridge from Dokki towards Tahrir Square. Thousands of people were making their way individually or in small groups towards the middle of the city.

As of 5:00 PM, there are reports of soldiers firing on protesters at the Interior Ministry.

Although there have been reports of gangs and looting in the absence of the once-ubiquitous security apparatus that controlled the streets of Cairo until very recently, one of the most striking developments since yesterday is how regular Egyptians have stepped up to thwart lawless and criminal acts.

Yesterday night at around 11:00 PM I witnessed one Egyptian snatch a television set from the hands of someone who had looted it from the National Democratic Party headquarters building and throw it into the Nile saying, "We are done with thieves in this country!" This morning, I witnessed residents taking it upon themselves to direct cars in major traffic circles, as well as cleaning up the wreckage of the destroyed NDP headquarters and sweeping trash from the roads by themselves.

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