Protesters Stream Into Cairo's Tahrir Square

Thousands of protesters are gathering in Cairo. Organizers hope it will be the largest demonstration yet — a million people marching the several miles from Tahrir, or Liberation, Square to the presidential palace.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Hundreds of thousands of protestors are gathered in Cairo. They hope it will be the biggest demonstration yet, in and around Liberation Square.

Egyptian army troops are deployed at key locations throughout the city, but the military command has already told protestors that it will not fire on them. In fact, yesterday, a military spokesman called the protestors' demands legitimate.

Plus, a newly-appointed vice president is opening a dialogue with protest leaders, amid reports that President Hosni Mubarak will soon step down.

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro is in Liberation Square and joins us now, on her cell phone.

Hello, Lourdes.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: Good morning.

Renee, I just want you to listen, a little bit, to this.

(Soundbite of crowd chanting in foreign language)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And that is one small group of protestors in what has swelled to hundreds of thousands of people, converging on Liberation Square. Certainly the largest protest we've seen, to date. And the mood, I have to say, is extremely ebullient. People are saying that they feel that there is a momentum behind these protests. They have signs. In fact, I'm reading one in front of me. There's a huge banner that's across Liberation Square, saying: people demand the removal of the regime. And everyone says that they have come here today because they want Hosni Mubarak, the president of this country for the last 29 years, to step down.

MONTAGNE: And tell us about that crowd. Who is out there protesting today?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's an incredibly diverse crowd. This is being called a popular uprising. And I have to tell you, it certainly feels that way. There's a large cross section of society. We've seen the young, affluent, educated bloggers who started this all off. And now we're seeing Islamists, we're seeing Coptic Christians, we're seeing children in some cases. We're seeing all sorts of people converging on this place. A real cross section of society. And I think, what people have been telling me, is they really want to make this point. That this isn't one group or another, this is all different sectors of Egyptian society converging, coming together with this one aim, to show that they are behind the removal of Hosni Mubarak.

MONTAGNE: And is the military, as it said would be, holding back, and how is the government, itself, reacting to this big protest?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, the military has shown a great deal of restraint. They have restricted access to the square. They are funneling people through particular points. They're working, though, with protestors who have volunteered to check I.D.s, to check people for weapons. So there's a bit of backlog in trying to get in here. But it's been very calm, very peaceful. The military's promised it's not going to intervene.

On the other hand, there's no Internet, still; the trains have been stopped. Clearly, the government is not happy with this protest movement and they have made it as difficult as possible for people to get here.

MONTAGNE: And, is there any sort of agreement among the protest leaders, about what should happen, if and when they get what they want - which is for President Mubarak to step down?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Um, hold on. People are shouting.

(Soundbite of crowd chanting in foreign language)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: One of the most interesting things, um, that you can see here at the moment, is that now that there's momentum, now that they feel that it's within their grasp to remove Hosni Mubarak, there is a debate going on about what they want to see come next. And some people want to see the military step in, other people want to see free and fair elections immediately. Other people want to see Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Laureate, take control for an interim period. So there is no consensus, here, but for the moment, you know, their objective still hasn't been achieved. They are still behind the fact that Hosni Mubarak has to go. And then, what comes after will have to be negotiated.

MONTAGNE: Lourdes, thanks very much.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, speaking to us from Tahrir Square, which translates to Liberation Square.

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