Protesters in New York Area Take Aim at U.S. Position on Egypt

JERSEY CITY — Waving Egyptian flags, chanting slogans in English and Arabic and setting fire to a photo of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, about 100 men, women and children gathered Friday afternoon here in Journal Square to support the tens of thousands of protesters on the streets of Egypt pressing for an end to Mr. Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

The protesters, many of whom said they were American citizens, came out not only in solidarity with fellow Egyptians but also to demand the American government support their plea for democracy.

“I’m asking the U.S. government not to support a dictator,” said Nasser al-Armoush, 57, a business owner who immigrated from Egypt to escape the regime’s repression. “Mubarak is over.”

Similar protests took place near the Egyptian consulate in Manhattan and in Astoria, Queens, home to a large Egyptian community.

The demonstrations were held hours before Mr. Mubarak ordered his government to resign but backed his security forces’ attempts to contain the surging unrest around the country.

While President Obama said in his State of the Union address that the American government stood by the people of Tunisia and their struggle for freedom, the White House has been careful not to endorse similar aspirations in Egypt, historically a key ally for American interests in the Middle East.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton did say in a statement early Friday that the protests in Egypt “underscore that there are deep grievances within Egyptian society and the Egyptian government needs to understand that violence will not make these grievances go away.” But her words were hardly satisfactory to the demonstrators.

“The government’s position has been unacceptable, shameful,” said Zaid Emad Ahmed, 31, a spokesperson for the Egyptian Association for Change, one of the groups that staged the demonstration. Some 200,000 Egyptians live in the United States, a recent census estimated, but members of the community say the actual number is much higher.

Sherif Nasr, 54, a physician who has lived in the United States for 29 years, said: “The American government has a strategic interest in Egypt, they see it as an ally in their fight against terrorism, as an island of stability in the Middle East. I find it very disheartening that they insist the regime is stable, when it is a regime that has no respect for human dignity.”

Others seconded him more angrily.

Another protester, Walid Ahmad, 34, a taxi driver who was holding pictures of victims of Mubarak’s regime, said, “We expected a lot from Obama, but he didn’t say anything, didn’t do anything. We are trying to get the American people to feel the pain of the Egyptians. Obama could put an end to it.”

Some demonstrators reiterated his point, shouting, in Arabic, “Mubarak: Tell Obama to get you a plane ticket and U.S. residency.”

About 100 protesters also gathered in Queens,  on a stretch of Steinway Street known as Little Cairo. Nour Ahmed, 3o, draped in an Egyptian flag, said she felt hope for the first time that democracy could come to Egypt and the Middle East. “We support our brothers and sisters who are rising up. It is the first time in decades that voices are being heard,” she said.

In New York, another demonstration is scheduled for Saturday outside the United Nations.

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