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Originally published Saturday, January 29, 2011 at 2:49 PM

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People rally in downtown Seattle to support protests in Egypt

A few hundred people gathered in downtown Seattle to rally in support of the Egyptian people and their ongoing political protests.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Ashraf Elswify wants his son to remember this turning point in Egypt's history, so he brought him to Westlake Center on Saturday where they joined several hundred people rallying to support protesters in Cairo and echo their calls for regime change.

"I want him to have the experience, not just read about it," says Elswify, who left Egypt 16 years ago and works at Microsoft. His son, Abd, 10, fit right in, thrusting his hand into the air and chanting "We Want Justice; We Want Freedom."

Steady rain didn't dampen the enthusiasm of many who said they've been riveted to their personal computers and televisions the past few days watching events unfold almost 7,000 miles away. Saying the country is on the brink of the most important change in their lifetimes, they sang and carried signs.

One placard riffed on a popular American song, "Walk Like an Egyptian," and showed a lone Cairo protester standing in front of a phalanx of police.

One after another, speakers grabbed a bullhorn to say they wanted democracy in Egypt and an end to corruption and poverty. This translates to two main demands: President Hosni Mubarak must step down and the U.S. must not intervene to help him.

"It's time for us to take a stand. I want to thank our brothers and sisters in Tunisia who started this awesome movement," said Alaa Badr, a rally organizer whose parents live in a Cairo suburb.

A pro-democracy movement sprung up in Tunisia this month and ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Some believe the same impulse has spread to Egypt.

Badr said many Egyptians are feeling happiness at the protests and anxiety about how the government and looters are responding.

An estimated 1,500-2,000 Egyptian natives and family members live in the Seattle area, said Samiha Korshed of Redmond, who runs a social-network group for local Egyptians. Korshed likened the movement in her homeland to the American Revolution. She said the American government should not come to Mubarak's aid. "I want to ask every American how they would feel if another country told them who their leaders should be."

The protests have brought many native Egyptians in the area closer, said Hany Elkordy of Seattle. "At the end of the day we're all Egyptians, whether Christian or Muslim, because this is long overdue."

Mohammed Elshall said he's been following the mounting unrest in Egypt through Facebook and was too stressed to go to work Friday.

Several people at the rally said they were heartened by the Egyptian army's appearance on Cairo streets, instead of the police, whom they view as corrupt. "The chief concern right now is the security vacuum, the lawlessness. The army is a very respected organization," said Ahmed Ayad, an Egyptian flag draped around his shoulders.

"It's a matter of time" until Mubarak steps down, said Emad Omara, who left Egypt three years ago to work at Microsoft.

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