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High Street protests persist amid Egypt unrest

Michael Parkman / Lantern photographer

Riots in Cairo, Egypt, escalated Wednesday when thousands of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s protesters clashed with Mubarak supporters.

CNN reported Molotov cocktails were thrown for hours, reporters were kicked and punched, and riders on horses and camels charged through the middle of protesting mobs clubbing people.

“The civil unrest that has been happening here has been going on for a week now,” Ithar Elrefai said in an e-mail to The Lantern. “Most of the people who were protesting were students. There were reports of police using tear gas and violence toward the protestors, but nobody expected it to last.”

Elrefai is a fourth-year at Cairo University Medical School who lived in Columbus until she moved to Cairo five years ago.

At about 5 p.m. EST, the Egyptian health minister told state-run Nile TV that three people died and more than 600 people were injured in Wednesday’s riots.

“For the past 30 years, people were afraid of even expressing their opinions about the government,” Elrefai said. “By nightfall, things got completely out of hand and the police started to leave the streets. That’s when it hit me how serious all of this really was. I saw tanks rolling past our house on their way to Tahrir Square.”

About 6,000 miles away from Cairo, a group of about 25 Ohio State students protested the Mubarak-run government for hours on the corner of 15th Avenue and High Street on Tuesday, despite the freezing rain.

The protestors were chanting in the same spot last Friday and intend to do so again this Saturday, according to the protest’s Facebook group, Americans Standing in Solidarity with Egyptians.

The North African Student Association helped sponsor the protests and paid for the corner space, said Maggie Wanis, leader of the protest and a fourth-year in psychology. She did not know how much they paid for the space.

Protestors are not convinced nor appeased with Mubarak’s official announcement on Egyptian television Tuesday evening that he would step down from his presidency or that this announcement would change Egypt’s political climate, so disorder continues.

“People in the streets were setting every government building on fire, breaking into places and destroying them,” Elrefai said. “This kept escalating and we kept hearing that there were thugs in almost every neighborhood that are breaking into homes and stealing everything.”

The OSU students gathered in support of the “Million Man March” that was taking place in Cairo and the surrounding cities. In its honor, protests are happening worldwide, Wanis said.

During the “Million Man March,” about 250,000 people packed the streets of Cairo and hundreds of thousands of others attended protests nearby on Tuesday, according to Newsweek

Wanis said she created the group on Facebook because she wanted to take action on OSU’s campus.

“On Friday we were out here and today we are because it is the ‘Million Man March’ in Egypt,” Wanis said on Tuesday. “People are protesting in Cairo right now. We can’t leave them out there by themselves.” OSU protestors cried phrases such as “Down with the tyrant” and “Long live democracy,” waving Egyptian flags and holding signs written in English and Arabic with phrases and pictures of Mubarak.

Ahmad Khafagy, a protest leader who does not attend OSU, said even though the protestors are thousands of miles away from Egypt, they still must show support.

“We are Egyptians,” Khafagy said, “just like those who are protesting in the revolution in Egypt right now.”

Only one OSU student is currently studying abroad in Egypt, a 30-year-old graduate student. Maureen Miller, director of communications for international affairs, said she could not release the student’s name to The Lantern.

“At first, I was all for these protests, I was genuinely hoping they get the change they wanted and all this wouldn’t have been a waste,” Elrefai said. “But after (Tuesday) night’s protests, I think these people should just go home.” 

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