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CAIRO — For Gamal Hassanein, it began with a slap.
The unemployed 24-year-old was arguing with a police officer when the man struck him across the face — a blow that seemed to sting for months.
“He stole my dignity with that slap,” said Hassanein, who does odd jobs to make money. “We could never stand up to those officers before because we were afraid. But we’re no longer willing to be silenced by our fear.”
The tens of thousands of protesters who have thrown Egypt’s 30-year-old regime into tumult come from all walks of life — conservative Muslims and Christians, yuppies and the unemployed, young and old. For many, the protests demanding that President Hosni Mubarak step down were a catalyst for years or decades of repressed anger at mistreatment at the hands of the state.
One after another, they describe a moment buried in their memory that came gushing to the surface as they saw others taking to the streets.
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