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The Fear Barrier Has Been Broken: Protests Continue to Erupt in Egypt Despite Police Crackdown

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EGYPT PROTESTS
AP

Unprecedented protests in Egypt continue for a third day. On Wednesday and Thursday, demonstrators defied a government ban on gatherings and took to streets in the biggest popular protests against President Hosni Mubarak in three decades. Democracy Now! tracked down Guardian correspondent Jack Shenker, who was arrested and beaten days ago while covering the protests, to get a live update from the streets of Cairo.

"That fear barrier seems to have been broken," Shenker said on Democracy Now! Thursday. "These are sort of middle-class people who are generally enjoying quite a comfortable standard of living ... They've got a lot to lose, and yet they're still being motivated to come out, to be beaten, to be hit by water cannons, to be carried off into the desert," he said. "There's so much energy and so much momentum behind what's going on ... I think we'll still see a lot of people on the streets tomorrow."

Shenker was detained and beaten with a group of demonstrators January 25, ultimately being dropped off in the desert. He was able to record his experience and to interview several of the people being held with him. Democracy Now! broadcast part of this dramatic audio recording.

Egyptian-American activist Mostafa Omar based in New York City pointed out the hypocrisy of the Obama administration's position on the Egyptian demonstrations in an interview with Democracy Now! Thursday.

"It's really interesting that Hillary Clinton said that she supports the universal rights of the Egyptian people, after the fact that the Egyptian people have begun to exercise those rights. The Secretary of State had no such words for the Egyptian regime over the last number of years," Omar said. "In fact, what she also forgot to mention is that the tear gas and the tanks that are driving into protesters, the concussion grenades, are all made in the United States. That is the meaning of $2 billion in military aid, military and economic aid."

"I think the other point to bring up is that the State Department, actually yesterday, mentioned that they would love to see the Mubarak regime bring about reform from above, because they're absolutely scared of a Tunisia-style uprising from below," Omar said. "And that's why I think they've changed their tone from "the Egyptian government is stable" to urging the Egyptian government to bring about reform before it's too late, before things take a Tunisian turn."

The massive uprisings were predicted by Issandr El Amrani, an independent political analyst and writer based in Cairo, who was interviewed on Democracy Now! January 18. He says the revolution in Tunisia is having an electrifying effect throughout the Arab world. "What's happening in Tunisia is having an electrifying effect, not only in Egypt, but throughout the Arab world. And, you know, I think we're seeing a lot of positive sides of this--people getting energized, people getting excited, organizing protests of their own."

The first lesson from Tunisia is that revolution is possible," said El Amrani, who writes the popular blog Arabist.net. "You have to remember that there hasn't been anything like this in the Arab world for decades."


For the complete transcripts and audio/video podcasts, visit the Democracy Now! homepage. For our complete coverage of the Egypt protests, click here. Join us on Facebook.