He appeared to strike a chord among the broader public, where some have absorbed a state-fueled image of the protesters as disrupting life for no reason and being directed by foreign hands.
A retired army general, Essam Salem, said the interview “showed a face of the truth which the state media tried to cover up for so long … Many people are coming because they saw the truth.”
In the afternoon, Ghonim arrived in Tahrir, greeted by cheers and hustled up to a stage. He softly and briefly to the huge crowd from a stage, offering his condolences to the families of those killed.
“We are not giving up until our demands are met,” he proclaimed before shaking his fist in the air, chanting, “Mubarak, leave, leave.” The crowd erupted in cheering, whistling and deafening applause.
Despite the excitement Ghonim injected into an already feverish gathering, organizers and the crowds themselves refused the idea of a single leader for their movement. Many contend its strength lies in its lack of leaders and in its nature as a mass, popular uprising — perhaps wary in part of personal splits that have sabotaged past opposition movements.
Ghonim and three others were added to an already existing, now 10-member committee that represents the various activist groups to coordinate protest activities and push through the groups’ demands, said al-Oleimi.
“No one can say they lead the revolution. There are leaders and units that organized inside the revolution, and they get their legitimacy from the demands of the revolution,” he said. “We don’t represent the people in the square. We represent the organized groups.”
Some activists were seen collecting names and phone numbers of some in the crowds, talking of holding some sort of poll over who they support to represent them.
“Ghonim cannot be a leader by himself, unless he is elected by a committee elected and composed of different groups that represent all these people,” said Shayma Ahmed, a 20-year-old student among the Tahrir crowds.
Ghonim as well appeared to be dismissing talk of himself as a leader.
“I’m not a hero. I was writing on a keyboard on the Internet and I wasn’t exposing my life to danger,” he said in the interview. “The heroes are the one who are in the street.”
The protesters say they will not begin negotiations with the government over future democratic reforms until Mubarak steps down. Vice President Suleiman has tried to draw them into talks, promising extensive — but still unclear change — and many protesters fear he aims to fragment the movement with partial concessions and gestures.
There were demonstrations calling for the president’s ouster around the country as well with 18,000 people cramming into the main square of Egypt’s second largest city in Alexandria. Some 3,000 service workers for the Suez Canal also demonstrated in Suez city, while 8,000 people chanted anti Mubarak slogans in the southern city of Assiut.
Even after nightfall, thousands remained in Tahrir, with larger numbers camping out the night than previously — including significant numbers of women and children — entertained by popular singers giving concerts.
• AP correspondent Hamza Hendawi contributed to this report.
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