Egypt protests - Reuters - Feb 1, 2011
Protesters shout anti-Mubarak slogans during an anti-government protest in Tahrir square in Cairo February 1, 2011. Photo by Reuters
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Tens of thousands of Egyptian protesters thronged Cairo's Tahrir Square on Tuesday, ahead of the "million man march" protest due to take place later in the day to mark seven days of anti-government demonstrations in the country.

A similar mass protest is scheduled to take place in the city of Alexandria, and the military has officially announced that Egyptian soldiers will not hurt any of the protesters, and will actually assure that the people are protected.

The Egyptian government has been trying to block citizens from arriving to the site of the protests by stopping train services and continuing to restrict internet access and mobile phone networks.

The goal of the protest group "April 6," which is leading the demonstrations, is to gather as many people as possible so they can pressure the army to cross over and protest against Mubarak.

The demonstrators plan to march to Mubarak's residence while holding the caskets of citizens who were killed over the weekend during clashes with police. The protesters are also expected to take over several of Cairo's main arteries and maybe even government offices and important state sites.

Among the people who streamed into Tahrir Square were many who defied a government transportation shutdown to make their way from rural provinces in the Nile Delta. The crowd was jammed in shoulder to shoulder - schoolteachers, farmers, unemployed university graduates, women in conservative headscarves and women in high heels, men in suits and working-class men in scuffed shoes.

They sang nationalist songs and chanted "Mubarak, Leave! Leave! Leave!" as military helicopters buzzed overhead.

Soldiers at checkpoints set up the entrances of the square did nothing to stop the crowds from entering.Protesters said they wanted Mubarak out of power by Friday.

"This is the end for him. It's time," said Musab Galal, a 23-year-old unemployed university graduate who came by minibus with his friends from the Nile Delta city of Menoufiya.

Meanwhile, an Egyptian official told the London-based Saudi paper Asharq Al Awsat that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak does not intend to concede his seat and announce his resignation, despite the mass protests and demands by the opposition. The official said that Mubarak will remain Egypt's president and he will in no way give away his position to his new vice president Omar Suleiman.

"Mubarak is closely following the developments so he can remain in control of the domestic security situation. The president is a soldier who does not intend to run away from the battle," said the official.

In Cairo, the planned "million man march" will focus on Tahrir Square in the center of the city, the presidential palace and other landmarks. Similar protests are planned for some of Egypt's other main cities.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has ruled Egypt for nearly 30 years, using strict emergency laws which grant police wide-ranging powers. Elections in November for parliament were widely seen as being rigged in favor of the ruling National Democratic Party.

Demonstrations and violent riots have continued in Egypt for seven straight days, with protesters refusing to leave the streets until Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak leaves the government.

Mubarak, for his part, has tried to quell the protesters by forcing his cabinet to resign and promising to make significant government reforms. But protesters continue to call for the end of Mubarak's reign on the country, which has lasted for over three decades.

On Monday, young men climbed lampposts to hang Egyptian flags and signs proclaiming "Leave, Mubarak!" One poster featured Mubarak's face plastered with a Hitler mustache, a sign of the deep resentment toward the 82-year-old leader they blame for widespread poverty, inflation and official indifference and brutality during his 30 years in power.

Looting that erupted over the weekend across the city of around 18 million eased - but Egyptians endured another day of the virtual halt to normal life that the crisis has caused. Trains stopped running Monday, raising the possibility authorities were trying to prevent residents of the provinces from joining protests in the capital.