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Protesters Settle into Tahrir Square, Waiting for Mubarak to Leave

Cairo protesters Feb. 4, 2011
An anti-government demonstrator holds his child aloft in Tahrir Square in sight of The Egyptian Museum. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Saturday in Tahrir Square, the mood had soured. People were on edge. Some of them had fresh bandages on their noses or scalps, battle scars, reminders of last week's rock-throwing melee in the heart of Cairo.

The Egyptian Army, the muscle keeping this event under control, seemed to be tightening the pressure on protesters. Soldiers and tanks choked off much of the free access to the square.

Senior commanders have made it no secret: they're tired of the spectacle. They believe protesters have made their point and should now go home.

As I walked around yesterday, the rise in anxiety was clear in the faces and tone of people in the crowd. They were worried the tanks would roll in and clear the Square. Some spent the night sleeping in front of the tanks, hoping their bodies were enough of a barrier to prevent those tanks from rolling in.

Last night, at least, their wish was granted.

I'm looking out my window down on the Square, with perhaps 100,000 people present and more streaming in. It's much more relaxed--even joyful. People are chanting and cheering, listening to speakers, and talking to friends. Today's gathering has the air again of a combination revival and block party, the way it did last week before the state-sponsored thugs rampaged in the streets.

The diehards have begun to camp out in the Square. Their tents are makeshift, but their determination seems permanent. They intend to stay until Mubarak leaves, true believers trying to wear down the fight in an old and unpopular leader.

See also:

Full coverage: Egypt in Crisis

Mark Strassman: Tahrir Square chanting protest grows fervid, angry

Mark Strassman: Reporting from Tahrir Square, Feb. 5, 2011

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