CBS News: Chicagoans Picket Egyptian Consulate

CHICAGO (CBS) – While people continue to protest in the streets of Egypt, hundreds of Chicagoans were rallying outside of the Egyptian consulate in Chicago Saturday afternoon.

A pro-democracy rally started 2 p.m. in front of the Egyptian consulate 500 N. Michigan Av. It’s one of several slated across the U.S. on Saturday.

The protesters were calling for Egypt President Hosni Mubarak to step down amid riots in the country. Chicago police estimated that about 600 people were taking part in the rally.

Demonstrators chanted “Hey Mubarak you will see, all Egyptians will be free.” They held signs that said “Victory to the Egyptian people” and “Freedom and Justice for all Egyptians.”

Protester Basma Hassan of Chicago said she is of Egyptian descent and has family in Egypt. The 35-year-old student and mother waved an Egyptian flag, saying he wants to show she supports the Egyptian people. She says the situation in Egypt is “getting out of control.”

Thousands in Egypt have been protesting for five days in a rejection of President Hosni Mubarak.

“People in Chicago should care because the Obama administration is taking a position on this issue. While supporting the rights of the people to express themself, they have at the same time expressed support for the presence of Hosni Mubarak,” Christina Abraham with the Council on American-Islamic Relations said. “And that’s exactly what the people of Egypt do not want anymore. They do not want the rule of a 30-year dictator, they want a democracy.”

Sherif Zaki lived in Egypt for most of his life before moving to Chicago five years ago. Most of his family is still over there.

Zaki told CBS 2′s Mike Puccinelli that the fact Mubarak has named a vice president for the first time in his nearly 30 years as president is not enough to appease Egyptians who want him gone. He said the only solution that will end the violence in his homeland is for Mubarak to step down and for Egypt to hold free and fair elections.

“Let’s assume Mubarak is the best president in the world. Isn’t 30 years enough? I always ask myself that question. Isn’t 30 years enough?”

The uprising in Egypt followed one in Tunisia that led to the ouster of that country’s dictator. Now protesters in Egypt want Mubarak to be the next dictator to be brought down by the power of the general public.

Despite the fact that the U.S. has supported the Mubarak regime for decades with tens of billions of dollars in aid, the protesters said it’s time for washington to support ordinary Egyptians.

Elise MacArthur, an Egyptologist at the University of Chicago, said, “It’s for the sake of democracy, which has obviously not been going on over there for quite some time; and the people are rising up and demanding their human rights and we stand behind them as our friends and, just as other human beings.”

Chicagoan Regina Fraser, one of the hosts of the PBS series “Grannies on Safari,” traveled to Egypt to see the country’s antiquities and instead found a revolution. It’s been terrifying, she says.

“Seeing mothers and families and children marching peacefully and then seeing them all run in terror from the tear gas — that image will be with me forever in my mind,” Fraser told CBS 2.

She didn’t see anyone get shot, but a photographer travelling with her did.

“He actually saw someone that was shot and he took several stills of people whose faces were filled with blood,” Fraser said.
Fraser’s tour group is planning on leaving as soon as possible.

Meantime, Illinois National Guard officials said that the 440 Illinois soldiers on a yearlong peace-keeping mission in Egypt have not been seriously affected by the rioting in Cairo and other major Egyptian cities.

The Illinois troops haven’t been able to use commercial communication methods, which the Egyptian government has shut down, but Guard officials in Springfield said they have been in contact with the soldiers.

Guard officials told the State Journal-Register in Springfield that the Illinois troops, who are stationed in the Sinai Peninsula near the Egyptian-Israeli border, have not been targeted during the riots and are hundreds of miles from the unrest.

The Illinois Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery Regiment deployed to Egypt in May. About 20 members of the Springfield-based 233rd Military Police Company also have been deployed there.