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EGYPT: Crowd gives speeches, prays, chants as seventh day of protests begins

January 31, 2011 | 12:02 am

As a mist-shrouded dawn broke over Cairo's Tahrir Square, it wasn't so much that protesters awoke to a new day: Most never went to sleep.

Hundreds of people spent all night in the plaza, worried that if they left, the military might move to block access for what has become the epicenter of demonstrations against the government of President Hosni Mubarak.

As Day Seven of Egypt's civil unrest got going, noisy protesters alternated among speeches, prayers and anti-government chants. To keep warm, crowds huddled around small camp fires and shared plastic cups of tea.

Speakers with megaphones and voices hoarse from shouting took turns keeping the crowds awake and energized. Many said it was important to stay loud and boisterous to counter reports on state-run media that everyone had gone home and the square was empty.

By morning, some wandered home, bleary-eyed, just as others came to replace them.  In a grassy patch in the middle of the plaza, several protesters curled up in blankets and tried to get some sleep.

Relations with the military remained good, but demonstrators whistled and waved defiantly at helicopters that flew overhead periodically and rushed to stand in front of any tanks that attempted to reposition from the square’s perimeter into the plaza itself.

Protesters said momentum was on their side.

"We will stay until the entire world hears us," said Iman Zaki, who has said he has been practically living on the streets since last week’s protests began. "We can sleep when it’s over."

Related: Egypt's military makes a show of force.

--Edmund Sanders in Cairo


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