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Rally At Minn. Capitol Supports Egypt Protests

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(credit: CBS) Reg Chapman
Reg Chapman joined WCCO-TV in May of 2009. He came to WCCO fr...
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By Reg Chapman, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — With protests raging, Egypt’s president named his intelligence chief as his first-ever vice president on Saturday, setting the stage for a successor as chaos engulfed the capital. Soldiers stood by — a few even joining the demonstrators — and the death toll from five days of anti-government fury rose sharply to 74.

Thousands of passengers are stranded at Cairo’s airport. Delta Airlines is the only U.S. carrier that flies directly to and from Egypt. On Friday, Delta stopped all flights into Cairo from JFK Airport indefinitely. The last flight to JFK from Cairo arrives tonight.

Some Minnesotans showed their support for the Egyptian people this afternoon. Supporters for change in Egypt lifted their voices for all to hear at the state capitol building.

“What you see here is just a genuine reaction to what’s going on,” said Bass Zanjani. “No formal event, no political agenda other than wanting to stand with our Egyptian brothers and sisters who are protesting.”

Those who gathered on the steps back their friends and families in North Africa, who they say are suffering at the hands of a government that has oppressed its people for decades.

“The people of Egypt want four basic things: change, freedom, justice and humanity,” said a speaker at the rally.

They say for years the Egyptian people have been forced to live under an imposed state of emergency.

They say it’s a law that gives the Egyptian government the right to arrest people without charge, detain prisoners indefinitely and limit people’s freedoms of assembly and expression.

Saturday’s fast-moving developments across the north African nation marked a sharp turning point in President Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule of Egypt.

Residents and shopkeepers in affluent neighborhoods boarded up their houses and stores against looters, who roamed the streets with knives and sticks, stealing what they could and destroying cars, windows and street signs. Gunfire rang out in some neighborhoods.

Tanks and armored personnel carriers fanned out across the city of 18 million, guarding key government buildings, and major tourist and archaeological sites. The military closed the pyramids on the outskirts of Cairo — Egypt’s premier tourist site.

But soldiers made no moves against protesters, even after a curfew came and went and the crowds swelled in the streets, demanding an end to Mubarak’s rule and no handoff to the son he had been grooming to succeed him.

Despite the communication blackout in Egypt, the demonstrators here in Minnesota say the Egyptian people have been heard.

“This is the will of the people,” said Tarek Nasr. “We are here to support any will of the people that, in any people, that are looking for freedom, equality, justice and dignity.”

These supporters of the Egyptian people say they are proud of their friends and family in Egypt standing up for change.

This group believes the only way for change is for Mubarak to step down. They’re demanding a leader who understands and feels what they are going through.

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(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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