The Ed Show | February 02, 2011
>> and these people are determined. they're not going to back down. it has escalated here in the last several hours in cairo . and one can only imagine what's going to unfold and how intense and how violent it's going to be today. it is coming up at 30 minutes past the hour, at 5:00 in the morning in cairo , egypt . if you're just joining us, this is "the ed show" on msnbc. full coverage with brian williams and richard engel . standing right next to that camera, as the violent riots continue. reports of three people dying today. and then another person dying tonight from a gunshot. and obviously from the last 30 minutes , gentlemen, that we've been talking, very little has changed. there doesn't seem to be any simmering at all from either side. do i have that characterized properly, from viewing this string, gentlemen?
>> reporter: it is a very dangerous thing to say, but it does seem to be winding down right now. the crowds aren't in tahrir square anymore. to the degree we saw them earlier. the pro-mubarak demonstrators who they were battling with have mostly retreated. there are now just people wandering around, leaving tahrir , looking for people that they've been fighting, sometimes finding people they suspect they've been fighting, lighting cars on fire. occasionally on the edges we've seen running battles of molotov cocktails . when they get too intense, the army fires warning shots . but this round of fighting right now may be over.
>> it may be over. and it's not far away from sunrise. and are there -- is there communication amongst the protesters, richard ? has that been pretty stable? or are they basically winging it?
>> reporter: they are excellent communicators. we've been communicating with them. we've been communicating with all sides in this. they are sending tweets and cell phone messages from the middle of tahrir square. not the people who are on the front lines , but tahrir square is quite large. so you could be on the front lines and then other reinforcements would be back in the square and then they would replace. they definitely had people who were communicating, communicating with the world. they have an organizational hub, a group that is running the communication, that is organizing protests. we met one of the founders of that group. it was actually a 36-year-old english teacher , a woman who spoke obviously very good english, a single mother. she has a 10-year-old daughter. she just said she was fed up with the way things were going in the situation. and was going to use her organizational skills to organize things here. now, we are hearing small arms fire, rifle fire from -- it doesn't seem to be directed at anyone. unclear why that was traps pir transpiring. we have heard gunfire over the last three or four hours as the protests have broken apart. it's a smaller, and potentially much more dangerous roving bands of opposition groups chasing each other through the streets of downtown cairo .
>> and this word from the statement department moments ago. after thursday, u.s. government flights out of egypt , unlikely. this may change the game for a lot of americans who remain in egypt . that is the word moments ago from the state department , that u.s. government flights, after thursday, out of egypt , are now being termed as unlikely. brian williams , what does that mean, do you think, for a lot of americans ? they're at a decision point, are they not?
>> reporter: well, look, fortune 500 companies have quietly been getting the people out who feel they need to get out, getting their dependents out. they're good at it. and in a post-9/11 world, most big companies have a contract with a security firm -- here comes another column of ambulances into the back of the square, about 9:00. this has been going on all night. a lot of people, when you live overseas as an american, perhaps in business or academia, you develop a network of friends. you kind of have an out. you have an escape plan. or you decide that you're going to stick it out. as i said earlier, this is your new home and your new reality and you live outside far enough of the city center to make a go of it. richard is right, small arms fire, close range. looks like it's just crowds, not aimed at anyone or anything in particular. it continues. i have a question for richard . we're not far from hearing over the loud speakers throughout the city, the morning call to prayer, and i'm wondering if that will have any effect, or be noticed at all over the din of what's happening?
>> reporter: i think it actually happeneded, brian . it was so faint. and there was so much confusion and gunfire, that few people heard it. this has not been a religious group . but people have been religiously stopping to pray. the earliest morning prayer , the one at 5:00, of the day, that seems to have taken place. i heard it. but it did not have any impact on the people. you're hearing some little explosions. they set a car on fire. and perhaps the fuel tank in that car is exploding. there are few people here. the protesters have told me are afraid if they leave tahrir square, they won't be able to take it again. they're afraid more reinforcements are going to come. i don't know how egypt will react when daylight comes and they look at the mess that the main square in this city has become. it's often compared to times square . it's much bigger than that. it's much like red square in moscow. it is the center of the city. it is the only place where you can have a demonstration like this. the only place in the densely packed urban city that has a wide enough place for people to gather. there have been hundreds, if not thousands of molotov cocktails thrown here tonight. it will be -- it will look like a war zone when the sun comes up here.
>> reporter: richard , i just got a text question from a friend of mine here. my hometown in new jersey, actually, asking who's fighting who. i thought the army had been sitting this out. and while it's true that for days our coverage has described, going back to friday, has described members of the egyptian army , still largely venerated in this society, as opposed to regular police officers , taking a very casual peaceful stance, accepting congratulations, well wishes from people stopping by. people have been treating these tanks and apcs like permanent planters. tonight the army, we heard -- i was back at the hotel, i heard the sound of tank engines starting up. we've kind of been waiting for it. and tonight they went into a crowd control mode. that's one of their jobs. and firing again in some cases very heavy caliber weapons, that could be heard, and would get noticed. obviously you can't have urban firing of a tank. it was never intended for that. people who have asked why isn't the army engaging, stepping in. the army of 450,000 here are in individual pieces of armor. what they can do, though, is fire their weapons.
>> gentlemen, i find that absolutely -- i find that amazing that the tremendous restraint that the army has shown. as you said, richard , not even being referees, just letting it go. and at small times , engaging in crowd control . they just basically want the crowd to disperse, is that correct?
>> reporter: they don't want to take sides in this conflict. and the army has very noticeably not deployed infantry troops in large numbers . there was an expectation that they would do that at one point. they never brought in the troops who could stop individuals from attacking other egyptians. that never happened. instead, they brought in apcs to protect government infrastructure. they were forced to move and take non-violent action primarily. putting down a smoke screen and firing warning shots . but not personally standing between protesters, trying to keep them apart. the army has decided, up until this stage, that it is a role that it does not want to take.
>> what does tomorrow bring for hosni mubarak in the wake of tonight's violence and intense fighting, brian ?
>> reporter: you know, we've got -- we ask every day about his whereabouts, about how much he knows, about how much he sees, who he's talking to by phone, how small his circle is getting. his behavior is a mystery, though. as richard pointed out tonight on "nightly news," if you go back with all this -- in light of all this we've seen today, if you go back into the text of the speech he delivered here last night on television, you can find the clues sprinkled throughout, but especially in one particular section, that a crackdown was coming. now, we've said that this was a crackdown achieved through almost free lance . one of the guys after he headed by the so-called pro-democracy protesters, one of the guys on the mubarak forces was found by some officials in there, and he said, i was told if i took part today i didn't have to go back to prison. so it was under that cover, and not using uniforms, that the other side was able to shift the balance of power . what hosni mubarak will do tomorrow, who he'll hear from, how much of this will sink in, that's a terrific question that only tomorrow can answer.
>> you are looking live at cairo , egypt . an exclusive live shot here on msnbc. it's coming up at 42 minutes after 5:00 in the morning. reporting live on msnbc, "nbc nightly news" anchor brian williams with us, and also nbc chief foreign correspondent richard engel , who have had a ringside seat to what appears to be a full-blown revolution taking place in the country of egypt . and to update, again, the state department is now telling all remaining u.s. citizens who wish to depart egypt on a u.s. government flight, to report to the airport immediately. and that further delay is not advised. following that statement came another statement from the state department saying that after thursday, u.s. government flights out of the country of egypt are being termed and described as unlikely. so tomorrow, maybe the last day as far as the government flights are concerned, that they would chance getting americans out. i mean, brian , doesn't that make quite a statement, that the united states government is only going to shuttle people out of the country, not further than thursday? what do you make of that?
>> reporter: that's a tough one. i think because, ed, not to make this about economics, when we came in, we saw these aircraft. we saw aircraft with american commercial aircraft markings. and they were on the tarmac, sitting there empty, engines cut. but the crews were here with them. they were waiting for their assignments, to get loaded. people show up at the airport, they fill out about six hours of forms. they wait in lines for hours. then they learn where they're going. a family from illinois we met was heading to cypress. they were here on vacation. and i'm reading u.s. embassy -- they advise u.s. citizens in egypt to continue evacuation efforts on thursday. assessing the need to continue flights out for them. so i think perhaps they're telling people to look at thursday as a target date. do not wait for a call from the u.s. embassy , this advisory reads that i'm reading, further delay is not advisable. i think it falls under the category, ed, since we've been at this for a couple of days, of a real good faith effort. and by the way, there's no free evacuation in this world. you have to sign one of the forms saying you are good for the equivalent air fair. the family we met from illinois was about to be out $1,700 times two for their unscheduled trip to cypress.
>> so for a fee, if you're an american, you can get out of a country? you're going to have to pay the fare of $ 1700 ?
>> reporter: that was one couple. if