Government Officials Join the Protesters in Egypt

Re-energized protesters kept up the pressure on Hosni Mubarak in the 11th day of massive demonstrations across Egypt today. The violence of the past two days seems to have abated, and prominent government figures have taken to the streets.

Yesterday's bitter and violent clashes were nowhere to be seen today, the New York Times reports, as tens of thousands of protesters descended on Cairo's Tahrir Square for what they are billing as a "day of departure" (that would be Mubarak's).

In a sign that the tide continues to turn against Mubarak, a number of Egyptian officials made appearances in the square to show solidarity with the crowd, according to the Times, including Mohamed Rafah Tahtawy, the spokesman for Egypt's most powerful state-run religious authority, and Arab League general secretary Amr Moussa, who once served as Mubarak's foreign secretary. Astonishingly, Egypt's current defense minister also made an appearance in the square, thought the Times says "he seemed to be concerned mostly with reviewing the troops and did not seek to speak to the crowd, though he did chat with some protesters."

The Atlantic's Graeme Wood says the mood among the demonstrators is jubilant:

The atmosphere a few days ago was doomed but resolute, like the last days of the Alamo. Now it was ecstatic, with an optimism that seemed wholly warranted. "We understand Mubarak's strategy, and we reject him," a young man who spent five days in the square told me. "This is a place of liberation [tahrir], not negotiation. Over our dead bodies." Two days ago those last words might have been sounded prophetic, but now they sounded merely figurative.

So far, pro-government thugs wielding medieval weaponry seem to have stayed home. We'll see if that remains true after nightfall. While today seems to have been safer for demonstrators so far, threats to journalists remain. The Times says pro-Mubarak forces broke into the Cairo bureau of Al Jazeera and set it on fire, and security officers raided a Muslim Brotherhood office and arrested "several journalists."

According to Human Rights Watch, as many as 30 human rights workers and reporters are still detained. CBS News' Lara Logan, who was taken into custody yesterday by the Egyptian military, has been released and is returning to the U.S., as are Katie Couric and NBC News' Brian Williams. Anderson Cooper reported for CNN last night from an "undisclosed location" to avoid reprisals.

[Photo via AP]