hide captionWael Ghonim greeted thousands of anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square earlier today (Feb. 8, 2011).
John Moore/Getty Images
Wael Ghonim greeted thousands of anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square earlier today (Feb. 8, 2011).
John Moore/Getty Images
Reporters in Cairo say the number of protesters in Tahrir Square today is noticeably larger than in the past few days and that the anti-government turnout is among the biggest in the 15 days since the demonstrations began.
NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports from the scene that one reason for the larger turnout today is that many protesters were "galvanized" by Google executive Wael Ghonim and what he had to say yesterday on TV after being released by Egyptian authorities — who had held him for 12 days. Ghonim helped organized a Facebook campaign that is at least partly responsible for igniting the protests against President Hosni Mubarak's government.
"We are beautiful people," Ghonim said, according to a translation done by columnist Sultan Sooud al Qassemi of Abu Dhabi's The National. "We have to restore dignity to all Egyptians. We have to end corruption. No more theft. Egyptians are good people."
As Eyder wrote yesterday, Ghonim also cried while being interviewed on TV and said "I want to tell families who lost their sons this is not our fault. This is the fault of those clinging to power."
And here's a recording of Lourdes talking a short time ago about the size of the crowd and what some in Tahrir Square are saying about Ghonim. There's a brief pause in between her two, 25-second reports:
NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro
Update at 1:05 p.m. ET: NPR's JJ Sutherland reports from Cairo that the crowd is so large, it's spilling into other parts of the city. It may be the biggest demonstration yet since the protests began.
Update at 11 a.m. ET: Ghonim has finished speaking to the protesters, the AP says. He told them:
— "We will not abandon our demand and that is the departure of the regime.''
— "I'm not a hero, but those who were martyred are the heroes."
Update at 10:30 a.m. ET: Foreign Policy magazine says that "by kidnapping, detaining, and then releasing Ghonim — instantly turning him into a nationwide celebrity — the regime may have just created an undisputed leader for a movement that in recent days has struggled to find its footing, seemingly outfoxed by a government skilled in the dark arts of quashing and marginalizing dissent."