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From long beards to Gucci purses, Egypt protests include all levels of society

Hundreds of thousands of people from seemingly every walk of life are protesting in central Cairo for the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

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In this photo taken Friday, Jan. 28, a crowd demonstrate in Alexandria, Egypt.

Tarek Fawzi/AP

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The protesters swelling out of central Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Tuesday, demanding that President Hosni Mubarak step down, seemingly came from every level of society.

Families, elderly, and youths joined in a crowd that included men wearing traditional galabeya robes, women wearing designer clothes and carrying Gucci purses, and increasing numbers of men with long beards indicating their devoutness.

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Hundreds of thousands of such people rallied together today for a "March of a Million" in the biggest protests yet, demanding for Mr. Mubarak's ouster. He appeared to hear their calls and was expected to announce late Tuesday that he would not seek reelection in the fall, although this concession seemed unlikely to end the demonstrations.

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To ask most demonstrators if they are affiliated with any political or religious organization was to invite frustration, even anger. Over and over again, the protesters have tried to prevent Egypt's week-old popular upringings from breaking down along political or religious lines.

“This is a popular Egyptian movement,” said a man named Mohamed Abed, becoming visibly angry when asked about his political affiliation, as he worked at a checkpoint set up to search the thousands of people coming into Tahrir Square. “Don’t talk about Muslim, Christian, leftist, or Brotherhood. We’re all together today.”

The movement remains a leaderless uprising. Opposition figures, seeking to capitalize on the growing protests, have formed an umbrella group called the National Committee for Following up the People's Demands, which includes Coptic Christians, the Muslim Brotherhood, the National Association for Change headed by Mohamed ElBaradei, and others. Committee members said today it will not negotiate until President Mubarak steps down.

Political opposition movements have struggled to keep up with the fast pace of events in Egypt, however, and some protesters appear intent on keeping it that way.

During the protests today in Tahrir Square, conversations speculated on the future of Egypt. One man asked another protester if he thought the Muslim Brotherhood would take over, or if Egyptians might ever elect a Christian president.

“Any Egyptian citizen can be a president of Egypt," responded the protester, who called himself Mohamed Salim. The purpose of this revolution was to bring freedom and rights to everyone, he said, not just to some people.

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Although religious slogans and chants have grown increasingly common since the first protests on Jan. 25, even those uttering them have maintained that the movement is inclusive and representative of all Egyptians.