By Al Jazeera / February 11, 2011
Hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy protesters are expected to march onto the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities on Friday, in what could become the largest – and some fear the most violent – protests thus far.
The demonstrators’ hopes for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak were dashed on Thursday as Mubarak, in a 17-minute address on television, said he was determined to stay in power until September, when his current term ends.
Mubarak said he was handing “the functions of the president” to Vice-President Omar Suleiman and that he would oversee an “exit” from the current crisis, and “realise the demands voiced by the youth and citizens … without undermining the constitution in a manner that ensures the stability of our society”.
Before he finished his anticlimactic speech, protesters camped in Tahrir Square, the epicentre of Egypt’s revolution, shouted “donkey, leave!”
Rabab Al Mahdi, a professor at the American University in Cairo, told Al Jazeera that the level of anger and frustration at the square was “unprecedented”.
“This is putting us into a messy situation that can turn bloody at any moment,” she said, adding that the fact that Mubarak “for more than 10 minutes, was talking about himself – very narcissistic, again, giving the message that he’s still in control, and this, in and by itself, offended people.”
Egyptian state television did not broadcast the scenes of anger after Mubarak’s speech.
‘People in tears’
Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh, reporting from Cairo, said that halfway through Mubarak’s speech, when the president spoke of his years in public service, people began taking off their shoes and waving them in the air in a dramatic Arab show of contempt.
“You could also see tears in some of the people’s eyes … a lot of screams of anger, people just breaking down in tears, people just breaking down in pain,” our correspondent said.
Immediately after Mubarak’s speech, Vice-President Suleiman called on the protesters to “go home” and asked Egyptians to “unite and look to the future.”
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