Protesters demanding President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster packed Cairo’s central square by the tens of thousands, in what the crowd dubbed the “Friday of departure.” Egyptians waved flags, sang the national anthem and cheered, appearing undaunted and determined after their camp withstood two days of street battles with regime supporters trying to dislodge them.
Thousands including families with children flowed over bridges across the Nile into Tahrir Square, a sign that they were not intimidated after the protesters fended off everything thrown at them by pro-Mubarak attackers — storms of hurled concrete, metal bars and firebombs, fighters on horses and camels and automatic gunfire barrages. The protesters passed through a series of beefed-up checkpoints by the military and the protesters themselves guarding the square.
Among the crowd was Arab League chief Amr Moussa, who told France’s Europe 1 radio he would consider running in elections to replace Mubarak.
The crowd was the biggest since Tuesday, when an stimated quarter-million turned out. A man sitting in a wheelchair was lifted — wheelchair and all — over the heads of the crowd and he pumped his arms in the air. Thousands prostrated in noon prayers and immediately after uttering the prayer’s concluding “God’s peace and blessings be upon you,” they began chanting their message to Mubarak: “Leave! Leave! Leave!”
Protesters at one point started banging railings and lamp posts, part of their alarm system to warn that what appeared to be Mubarak supporters, like those who attacked the square on Wednesday, were approaching. Thousands surged to the area where the attack was suspected to protect the area, shouting: “Peacefully, peacefully.”