WASHINGTON — Hundreds of opponents of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak called at a rally in Washington Saturday for his overthrow and urged Washington to "stand on the right side of history" and cut off aid to his regime.
Amid a sea of Egyptian and American flags and protest placards in English and Arabic with slogans including "Pharaoh no more" and "Overthrow Mubarak," the crowd, estimated at between 900 and 1,000, took turns leading chants in front of the Egyptian embassy.
"Mubarak has to go," shouted Ayman Hodhod, standing atop snow-covered security barriers.
"America should get on the right side of history and stop giving financial aid to Mubarak because he uses it to abuse his own people," said Hodhod, who had traveled from the midwestern state of Minnesota for the rally.
Mohammed Eid grabbed a megaphone, pointed it toward the embassy and led the protesters in chants in Arabic of "Down, down Mubarak" and "Seven million jobless in Egypt."
As that round of noise stopped, an emotional Amal el Bahi took up a new mantra of "Mubarak must go," shouting to the edge of hoarseness as the crowd joined in.
"It's our country, not theirs," el Bahi told AFP, gesturing toward the embassy, where slight movement could be seen behind a tinted glass entrance door, set back several meters (yards) from the high steel barriers and three US police officers that separated the diplomatic building from protesters.
On the brink of tears, el Bahi told AFP she has lost contact with her son in Egypt since massive street protests began there earlier this week.
Reports from Egypt have said at least 102 people have died in the protests in Egypt against Mubarak, who on Friday sacked his cabinet and promised reforms in an effort to stem the popular uprising.
But as the violence continued in Egypt, the protesters in Washington said Mubarak's actions and promises rang hollow, and insisted that the only thing they wanted was for him to go.
"I don't think anyone should accept the same president for 30 years," said a middle-aged woman who gave her name only as Nabila B.
"I want for my country the same as we have in America. I want freedom -- free speech, free elections -- and I don't want the same face," she said.
The demonstration in Washington was one of dozens across the United States, called to show solidarity with the masses who have taken to the streets in Egypt to demand Mubarak step down after 30 years of iron-fisted rule.
In Chicago, around a thousand people chanted "brick by brick, wall by wall, we will see Mubarak fall" as they waved flags and signs outside the Egyptian consulate.
"The time has come for the people in the Middle East to fight for their rights -- social, political and economic," said Dina Rashed, 42, an Egyptian immigrant who is pursuing a PhD in political science at the University of Chicago.
"I hope this moment will not be hijacked by non-democratic forces that don't represent the will of the people and that (the protesters) keep fighting for their rights peacefully."
Ali Mohammad, 41, was among many to express frustration that the US government has not taken a more forceful stance in supporting the protesters.
"The US government is propping up regimes -- for once we want them to support the people," said Mohammad, an engineer and Palestinian immigrant.
Eman Ahmed, 22, said she is worried about the safety of her family in Egypt and believes Mubarak would fall if the United States withdrew support for his regime. "What we hope to see is for America to be on the side of the oppressed.," she told AFP.
Outside the embassy in Washington, seven-year-old Rana held up a home-made sign that said: "I want good future."
"I appreciate what the people in Egypt are doing, but I'm upset by the response of the police, Mubarak and the United States," said her mother, Doha.
"The United States is not supporting the people, even though President Obama says he backs human rights.
"I think the US is scared that the Muslim Brotherhood will step up and get strong," she said, referring to the main opposition movement in Egypt.
"But America has to understand, this is not about the Muslim Brotherhood. It's about the Egyptian people, Muslim and Christian together. We want change," she said.
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