Celebrating Egypt’s victory

February 15, 2011

Nicole Colson rounds up celebrations and solidarity rallies from across the U.S.

THE FALL of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak brought out demonstrators in cities across the U.S. to proclaim their solidarity with the Egyptian people and their hope for a new, democratic Egypt.

In New York City, almost every shop in the "Little Cairo" neighborhood on Steinway Avenue in Astoria, Queens, sported signs reading "Change--Equality for all Egyptians!" "Freedom for all Egyptians: Women, Copts and Muslims" and "Go, Mubarak, Go! Leave Us Alone. Step Out with Your Cronies. Don't Step Aside" since the beginning of the mass demonstrations in Egypt.

On February 11, when Mubarak's Vice President Omar Suleimain appeared on Egyptian state television to announce that Mubarak had "waived the office of the presidency," a call immediately went out in the neighborhood for victory celebrations.

By 2 p.m., about 75 Egyptian-Americans and supporters of all generations had gathered in front of the Nile Deli. Young parents carried children who had their faces painted in the Egyptian colors of red, white and black. Older women and men waved the Egyptian flag, while teenagers carried a cartoon picture of Mubarak, being pelted by shoes, running for a plane marked Saudi Arabia.

Supporters of the democracy movement in New York City celebrate Mubarak's downfall
Supporters of the democracy movement in New York City celebrate Mubarak's downfall (Courtney Cenname | SW)

The atmosphere was jubilant and triumphant. One young man stated, "Tunisia inspired us, now we want to inspire others"--a sentiment which was also made clear by chants in English of "One, two, three, Egypt is free. Four, five, six, Gaza is next!" In Arabic, demonstrators chanted: "Imagine, imagine Algeria. Imagine, imagine Syria. Imagine, imagine Lebanon. Imagine, imagine Palestine. Imagine, imagine Yemen!"

By 7 p.m., hundreds of people were streaming into the neighborhood, gathering this time in front of the Jerusalem Nights café, despite the bitter cold. Many young people there who had grown up in the U.S. had internalized the fight of their brothers and sisters in Egypt, shouting, "We won our freedom today!" One of the most popular topics was the revelation that Mubarak is worth $70 billion--his theft of the Egyptian people's money inspired the chant "Mubarak, you're a donkey! Where is all our money?"

All night and all up and down the street of Little Egypt, groups were waving flags, singing the Egyptian national anthem and raising their fists in the air. In the bars and cafes that night, groups of young people broke out into dance, shouting, "We're free! We're free!"

Farid El Baghdadi, an Egyptian-American man who runs a shawarma street cart, talked about his personal experience with the brutality of the Mubarak regime. His three brothers, still in Egypt, had joined the demonstrations in Tahrir Square and were all shot on the day of the police crackdown against the demonstrators. He said the victory of the people in ousting the dictator meant that his family did not die in vain.

On the same day in Washington, D.C., a protest that had been scheduled outside of the White House was immediately moved to outside the Egyptian Embassy for a celebration when the news came that Mubarak had resigned.

More than 200 people showed up with Egyptian flags and signs reading "Egypt is Free" and "Globalize the Intifada." A sound system blared Arabic music, while the crowd danced and clapped, chanting the Egyptian national anthem and "Long live Egypt" in Arabic.

It was a different scene from all the protests that had been happening outside the embassy over the previous two weeks. Angry faces were turned into smiles. Though it was clear that the revolution is not over, this was a time to celebrate. As one activist said, "Party tonight--and the struggle continues tomorrow."

In San Francisco, approximately 150 people gathered in UN Plaza to celebrate the same day. The event had originally been planned as a solidarity rally, turning instead into a joyful scene of Egyptians and protesters dancing and singing in Arabic. Many young non-activists had come down to the event saying they were inspired by the last two weeks.

In San Diego, chants of "Sí, se puede" ("Yes we can") turned into "Sí, se pudo" ("Yes we did"), as about 100 demonstrators celebrated the collapse of the Mubarak regime.

Gathering in front of the Federal Building, demonstrators embodied the enthusiasm felt throughout the world for the fall of the hated tyrant at the hands of the Egyptian people. As drivers honked to show support, the demonstrators cheered in response.

Omar Metwalli, who was born in Egypt, said his reaction was "euphoric. This morning, I was crying." He had spoken with his family in Egypt earlier in the day, and stated:

You can tell from the tone of their voice that they are ecstatic, that they are happy. Everybody is celebrating in Egypt. Everybody has a drink in their hands. Literally everybody is in the streets--there is no one home right now...

I think people grew up in the last two weeks. They grew up very quickly...They didn't care about the country [before] because they didn't have any stake in it. Now people are cleaning up the streets, they are talking to each other about how to become good citizens. You feel like the youth of Egypt just grew up like overnight...It's the first step--the whole Middle East is next. Once people smell freedom, it's really contagious. I hope that other countries will take the torch.

Christopher Helali, a 23-year-old Iranian, said of the Egyptian people "These are my brothers and sisters in the Middle East. We are here to support them...We don't want these dictators. We want America to hold to their promise. When they say they are for democracy, then they should have democracy in all countries."

As Wafa Ben Hassine, a young Tunisian-American woman, told the crowd:

There's this image of Egyptians and Arabs in general...of this guy wearing a turban, he's usually violent...I think this whole process of fighting for certain very basic human rights has disproven that to a very great degree. All of these protests, with millions and millions of people, these were peaceful protests. They used their resources, but this came from the people. This isn't a "social media revolution." No, it's not the "Facebook revolution." This is a revolution of dignity. This is a revolution of the people.

Celebrations of Mubarak's ouster also took place in several other cities on the following day, February 12. In Los Angeles, 200 Egyptians and activists gathered in a park in East Los Angeles to mark Mubarak's departure. Protesters sang, danced, ate and broadcast a cell phone conversation with an Egyptian in Tahrir Square. The crowd chanted solidarity greetings to those who could listen in Tahrir Square.

In Chicago, more than 100 protesters gathered to chant and dance in celebration outside of the Egyptian consulate on February 12. "We want to show everyone in Tahrir Square and all over Egypt that we stand by them and really admire them for what they've done," Ayahel Beshbeeshy told the Chicago Tribune, as protesters behind her sang songs in Arabic.

In Seattle, more than 60 people rallied in Bell Square in downtown Bellevue to celebrate the fall of Mubarak. Demonstrators waved Egyptian flags, sang songs and handed flowers and candy to passersby.

"I don't think anybody thought it would happen," said Ahmed, who was born in Egypt but moved to Canada as a child. "Tunisia gave people hope that it would actually work."

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