Cairo Protesters Show No Sign of Backing Down

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Protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square. From the CBS Evening News, Feb. 7, 2011.
CBS

CAIRO - There's a call to battle stations and the Tahrir Square protesters rush for the barricades. But it's a false alarm. There's no attack. It shows how fiercely they will defend this territory.

Egyptian state TV meanwhile showed pictures of President Hosni Mubarak calmly meeting his cabinet, apparently oblivious to the worldwide sensation of Wael Ghonim, the young Google executive and online activist who had disappeared 10 days ago from Tahrir Square.

Scroll down to watch CBS News video about Wael Ghonim

CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports upon his release from custody Monday, Ghonim said in Arabic, "Please don't make a hero out of me. The real heroes are the ones who died in the streets."

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Egypt's Ghonim, Held 12 Days: I'm No Hero

Back in the square demonstrators were upping the ante. They blockaded a government building and stopped the employees from getting to work.

The Mubarak regime clearly wishes these protestors would go away. If anything, their camp is looking more and more permanent.

People all over the world are talking about the demonstrators in Tahrir Square, but who - if anyone - is talking for them?

"Our demands lead this protest. Egyptians will not accept representatives at this current stage," said one protester.

Monday night we tracked down one of the organizers of the first rally. Ahmed Abaas said they never imagined their protest would explode into a movement, so far truly popular and still with no formal leadership.

"That's what confuses the system the most," said Abaas. "They want to find someone and there's no one. It's everybody!"

Ayman Nour, a well known opposition leader, joined the demonstrators last week and was hit in the head with a rock.

Elizabeth Palmer: "And now you have headaches?"

Ayman Nour: "No. I have different headaches. Mubarak headaches."

In 2005 Nour challenged Mubarak in presidential elections and ended up in jail. He agrees that the protesters have no leader and there's only one way to end the standoff: Mubarak has to go.

There may be some signs of protest fatigue but the people in Tahrir Square seem willing to wait.

Monday night there's a stalemate with apparently limitless quantities of stubbornness to go around on both sides. The demonstrators sound committed. When asked how they were managing to wash and use the washroom in the square, they said there was a dilapidated public washroom, some people in the crowd know how to do plumbing and fixed it and now they're in for the long haul.

  • Elizabeth Palmer
    Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."