Thousands renew Egypt protests despite gov't warnings

By ASSOCIATED PRESS, JPOST.COM STAFF
January 26, 2011 18:55

Beefed up police forces on the streets quickly move in, using tear gas and beatings to disperse demonstrations calling for Mubarak's ouster.

4 minute read.



Plainclothes police arrest protester in Egypt

Egyptian Protests 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

CAIRO— Egyptian anti-government activists clashed with police for a second day Wednesday in defiance of an official ban on any protests. Beefed up police forces on the streets quickly moved in and used tear gas and beatings to disperse any demonstrations.

Security officials said a total of 860 protesters have been rounded up nationwide since Tuesday, when tens of thousands turned out for the largest protests in Egypt in years — inspired by the uprising in Tunisia. They demanded President Hosni Mubarak's ouster and a solution to grinding poverty, rising prices and high unemployment.

RELATED:
3 killed in Egyptian protests against Mubarak
Analysis: Concern, but also opportunity in Lebanon

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.



After nightfall Wednesday, more than 2,000 demonstrators were marching on a major downtown boulevard along the Nile when dozens of riot police with helmets and shields charged the crowd. It was a scene repeated throughout the day wherever demonstrators tried to gather.

They were the latest in outbursts of political discontent in Egypt that have been growing more frequent and more intense over the past year. Protests have erupted sporadically over police brutality, poverty and food prices, government corruption and mismanagement, and more recently sectarian strife between Christians and Muslims. Parliamentary elections in November were widely decried as fraudulent.

Many in Egypt see these events as signs of the authoritarian president's vulnerability in an election year. There is speculation that 82-year-old Mubarak, who has been in power for nearly 30 years and recently experienced serious health problems, may be setting his son Gamal up for hereditary succession. But there is considerable public opposition and, according to leaked US diplomatic memos, it does not meet with the approval of the powerful military. And the regime's tight hold on power has made it virtually impossible for any serious alternative to Mubarak to emerge.

The crackdown by authorities brought harsh words from European leaders, who expressed concern and said the events underline the need for democratization and respect for human and civil rights. However, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton did not criticize Egypt's government — a key US ally in the Middle East — but only said the country was stable and Egyptians have the right to protest while urging all parties to avoid violence.

Activists used social networking sites to call for fresh demonstrations Wednesday. But Facebook, a key tool used to organize protests, appeared to be at least partially blocked in the afternoon. On Tuesday, Twitter and cell phones appeared to be sporadically blocked as well.

The Interior Ministry warned Wednesday that police would not tolerate any gatherings, and thousands were out on the streets poised to crack down quickly on any new signs of unrest after clashes on Tuesday that killed three demonstrators and one police officer.

Early Wednesday, thousands of policemen in riot gear and backed by armored vehicles took up posts in Cairo on bridges across the Nile, at major intersections and squares as well as outside key installations such as the state TV building and the headquarters of Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party.

Police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd of several hundred activists on a main commercial thoroughfare in central Cairo, chasing them through side streets as both sides pelted each other with rocks with hundreds of onlookers watching anxiously.

Earlier, dozens gathered outside the Journalists' Union in downtown Cairo and renewed the chants heard against Mubarak throughout Tuesday's much larger protests. "Mubarak is leaving, leaving. O Egyptian people, be brave and join us," they chanted. As police charged the crowd, beating them with sticks, they chanted "peaceful, peaceful."

In the city of Suez east of Cairo, an angry crowd of about 1,000 people gathered outside the city's morgue demanding to take possession and bury the body of one of three protesters who died in clashes on Tuesday.

In the southern city of Assiut, eyewitnesses said riot police set upon some 100 activists staging an anti-government protest Wednesday, beating them up with batons and arresting nearly half of them.

"Down, down Hosni Mubarak," chanted the crowd. "Oh, people, join us or you will be next."

Many protesters say they have been inspired by the uprising in Tunisia — even invoking some of the identical slogans heard in the other north African nation.

European reaction to the crackdown was critical. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he was "very concerned" and called on all concerned to show restraint.

"The situation in Egypt must not escalate," he said. "The current situation in Egypt ... underlines the necessity of democratization, of respect for human and civil rights," Westerwelle told reporters in Berlin, pointing to the need for freedom of opinion, assembly and the press to be respected.

"We are seeing in the last few weeks that a country's stability is not endangered by granting civil rights — it is through the refusal of civil and human rights that societies become unstable," he said in a reference to Tunisia.


Related Content

A United Nations (U.N.) chemical weapons expert, wearing a gas mask, holds a plastic bag containing
January 22, 2018
Rescuers in rebel-held Syrian area accuse gov't of gas attack

By REUTERS

Israel Weather
  • 11 - 19
    Beer Sheva
    14 - 18
    Tel Aviv - Yafo
  • 9 - 15
    Jerusalem
    13 - 17
    Haifa
  • 12 - 23
    Elat
    12 - 21
    Tiberias