Friday, June 25, 2010

Thousands gather peacefully in Alexandria

A long day is winding to a close in Alexandria, yet Ayman Nour's waterfront apartment is still buzzing. Media, friends, al-Ghad members, and activists fill the reception. Tea, cake, and croissants are devoured by the exhausted group as Nour appears for yet another interview. There is laughter, and smiles on everyone's faces despite the exhaustion.

There were no arrests today. There was no police brutality. And oh, was there a protest.

I've heard estimates that there were 4,000 people at the Sidi Gabr Mosque in Alexandria today. I can't offer my own estimates, as I spent the first half of the demonstration smack in the middle of a sea of people. I can, however, testify that it was indeed a sea of people.

Popular opposition figure Mohamed El-Baradei made a brief appearance at the mosque. Ayman Nour, George Ishak, and Hamdeen Sabbahi were there as well, along with literally thousands of Egyptians.

Around 7:30pm this evening, I watched at least 800 people march single-file down the Mediterranean city's sea-side main road. Men, women, young, old. Entire families, complete with small children. Most of them wore black.

El-Baradei again made his typical momentary appearance, and Ayman Nour walked the sidewalks of the corniche with the silent demonstrators for more than an hour.

The death of Khaled Said has brought everyday Egyptians to the streets. The usual group of 200 activists has swollen. And in Alex, unpoliticized youth have found a new means of protest: standing silently along the corniche, wearing black, and praying for Khaled's soul.

Today has been an exhausting day, and it is time I head back to Cairo.

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