Military Deploys in Cairo Amid Growing Protests, Mubarak Addresses Nation
Updated 6:45 p.m. ET
President Obama delivered a statement Friday on the Egypt protests from the White House. He said he spoke to President Mubarak on the telephone and urged him to “give meaning” to pledges of better democracy and economic opportunity.
“Going forward, this moment of volatility has to be turned into a moment of promise,” the president said. He also asserted that the U.S. will continue to stand up for the rights of the Egyptian people and called on both the protesters and the government to resist resorting to violence.
Updated 5:30 p.m. ET
President Hosni Mubarak addressed the Egyptian people on state television Friday after midnight local time, saying he asked the government to resign and be replaced Saturday in reaction the protests that have gripped the country.
Mubarak claimed he defended the rights of citizens to protest, so long as it was done legally. He also said he had always worked to alleviate the concerns of the poor.
According to an English translation by al Jazeera, he told viewers “the incidents that took place today and the past few days have left the majority of the Egyptian people fearing for Egypt and its future.” He said he would not tolerate threats to the security of the nation, a veiled reference to further crackdowns.
He also warned of chaos in such a large country, indicating that it could destabilize the region.
Mubarak said he was addressing people as an ordinary Egyptian, not a president, saying all Egyptians were united as a people.
Updated 5:02 p.m. ET
Page from pamphlet circulating in Egypt, “How to Protest Intelligently”
On Friday afternoon, Margaret Warner spoke to GlobalPost reporter Jon Jenson in Cairo about the protest scene, including the distribution of a pamphlet from an unknown author describing how to handle getting tear gassed and setting out other instructions for protesters.
“It covered everything from what to wear if they tear gas you, and to use coke or onions to counteract tear gas once its hit your eyes and your breathing system,” he said. “We don’t know where it came from. But there is a large number of Egyptian activists on Facebook and twitter, who after seeing the numbers on Jan. 25, were probably encouraged when saw so may out on streets and created this.”
Jensen also described how shocked people were when they heard the government’s announcement at 5:30 p.m. that a curfew would start at 6 p.m.
“Many Egyptians were watching state television, saying ‘we have 30 minutes to go out and buy bread, water snacks.’ Many got fresh cartons of cigarettes to get them through the night,” he added.
Jenson’s been sending out updates on his Twitter feed. Most recently:
I am going out to Tahrir to interview people breaking curfew. Hearing reports curfew is ineffective. #Egypt #Jan25
Updated 3:30 p.m. ET
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs continued the U.S.’ official response to the crisis in Egypt, calling for calm and negotiations but refraining from calling for the ouster of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, a longtime U.S. ally.
He called the protests a “fluid and dynamic situation,” saying the White House is “deeply concerned about the images and the events we see in Egypt today.”
He called for access to the Internet and social media sites to be restored.
Gibbs said the U.S. will be “reviewing our assistance posture based on events in the coming days.” The U.S. supplies military aid to Egypt.
He said that despite Egypt’s role in international affairs, the government has to “address grievances that have built up…within the country of Egypt” and that “legitimate concerns…have festered for quite some time.” When asked if the time had come for Mubarak to leave office, he said he does not believe it is too late for Mubarak to make necessary changes and reforms.
Gibbs also confirmed that President Obama has not spoken to Mubarak directly yet.
He said “contingencies have been discussed” where the U.S. Embassy is concerned. The State Department has issued a travel alert to discourage non-essential travel.
Pressed by a reporter, Gibbs said had not “equivocated” on the seriousness of the situation or calls for nonviolence.
Updated 2:45 p.m. ET
EgyptAir, Egypt’s national carrier, has ceased all flights to Cairo for 12 hours.
Updated 2:15 p.m. ET
The AP has posted this raw video of fires burning in nighttime Cairo sky:
The shutdown of Internet access in Egypt is believed to be the largest blackout of its kind. The New York Times has more on the communications outages.
Updated 1:30 p.m. ET
An Associated Press reporter said that amid the clashes, there were reports of policemen removing uniforms and joining the protesters, with crowds eagerly cheering on those that joined them.
Update 1:13 p.m. ET
If you’re still looking for details on the root causes of the protests, GlobalPost has put together a country-by-country guide to understanding the unrest in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and beyond.
Update 1 p.m. ET
President Hosni Mubarak has extended the overnight curfew nationwide. He has not yet spoken publicly.
Updated at 12:15 ET Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday that the U.S. is “deeply concerned about the use of violence by Egyptian police and security forces against protesters. We call on the Egyptian government to do everything in its power to restrain the security forces … protesters should also refrain from violence and express themselves peacefully.”
“We support the universal human rights of the Egyptian people,” including free speech and assembly, she added.
She avoided direct criticism of the Egyptian government, acknowledging a longstanding partnership with the U.S. but encouraged needed reform, calling for “greater openness.” She said the protesters were expressing legitimate grievances, adding that “leaders need to respond to these aspirations.” The U.S. government provides military aid to Egypt.
Despite tear gas, protesters remained on the streets at least an hour after a 6 p.m. local time curfew.
Updated at 11:40 a.m. ET
Tanks have been seen on the streets of Cairo as the Egyptian military has been deployed to contain thousands of demonstrators on the streets. Flames could be seen as night fell on Egypt’s capital. Protesters were seen throwing stones at riot police.
According to the Associated Press, parts of the ruling party headquarters had been torched by protesters.
Internet communications remain cut off and mobile phone service interrupted. State television said the curfew would be in force from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez.
Originally posted at 10 a.m. ET
Riot police force protestors back across the Kasr Al Nile Bridge as they attempt to get into Tahrir Square on Jan. 28, 2011 in downtown Cairo, Egypt. Thousands of police are on the streets of the capital and hundreds of arrests have been made in an attempt to quell anti-government demonstrations. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Demonstrators in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria have continued their anti-government protests despite the government’s warning of “decisive measures,” the arrest of more than 1,000 people and the disabling of internet and mobile phone access. Seven people have died in the violence.
Crowds gathered after Friday prayers, with many chanting “down, down with Mubarak,” referring to President Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power for three decades. The show of dissent has not often been seen in Egypt, where such gatherings are illegal. Friday’s crowds were estimated to be the largest yet, after initial protests kicked off on Tuesday after an online posting.
The unrest follows the ousting of Tunisia’s president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia amid growing demonstrations in Tunis.
Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel laureate and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency returned to Egypt on Thursday. He has been considered a potential contender to face Mubarak in the next presidential election in September. Riot police reportedly beat back his supporters. The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition group, has also been targeted in a crackdown.
In an exclusive interview with the NewsHour, Vice President Joe Biden said he did not consider Mubarak a “dictator,” but said he needed to be “more responsive to some of the needs of the people.” The United States has been cautious in responding to protests in Egypt and Yemen, both of which are considered allies in the region.
Friday’s NewsHour will have more on the protests and the opposition movement.