CAIRO (AP) — Thousands of anti-government protesters, some hurling rocks and climbing atop an armored police truck, clashed with riot police Tuesday in the center of Cairo in a Tunisia-inspired demonstration to demand the end of Hosni Mubarak’s nearly 30 years in power. Three people were killed in confrontations around the country.
After a day of violence, thousands of demonstrators stood their ground in downtown Cairo’s vast Tahrir Square, steps away from parliament and other government buildings. They promised to camp out overnight, setting the stage for an even more dramatic confrontation.
Throughout the day, police blasted crowds with water cannons and set upon them with batons and acrid clouds of tear gas in an attempt to clear demonstrators crying out “Down with Mubarak” and demanding an end to Egypt’s grinding poverty, corruption, unemployment and police abuses.
Tuesday’s demonstration, the largest Egypt has seen for years, began peacefully, with police showing unusual restraint in what appeared to be a calculated strategy by the government to avoid further sullying the image of a security apparatus widely criticized as corrupt and violent.
With discontent growing over economic woes, and the toppling of Tunisia’s president still resonating in the region, Egypt's government — which normally responds with swift retribution to any dissent — needed to tread carefully.
But as crowds filled Tahrir Square — waving Egyptian and Tunisian flags and adopting the same protest chants that rang out in the streets of Tunis — security personnel changed tactics and the protest turned violent. Around 10,000 protesters packed the square, the Interior Ministry said.
The sight of officers beating demonstrators had particular resonance because Tuesday was also a national holiday honoring the much-feared police.
A policeman was hit in the head with a rock during the protest in Cairo and died later in the hospital, an Interior Ministry official said.
In another demonstration in the city of Suez, two protesters were killed, he said. One of them had respiratory problems and died as a result of tear gas inhalation; the other was killed by a rock.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information to journalists.
In Egypt, discontent with life in the autocratic, police state has simmered under the surface for years. It is the example of Tunisia, though, that appeared to be enough to push many young Egyptians into the streets for the first time.
“This is the first time I am protesting, but we have been a cowardly nation. We have to finally say no,” said 24-year-old Ismail Syed, a hotel worker who struggles to live on a salary of $50 a month.
Demonstrators attacked a water cannon truck, opening the driver’s door and ordering the man out of the vehicle. Some hurled rocks and dragged metal barricades. Officers beat back protesters with batons as they tried to break cordons to join the main group of demonstrators downtown.
Protesters emerged stumbling from white clouds of tear gas, coughing and covering their faces with scarves.
Some had blood streaming down their faces. One man fainted. Police dragged some away and beat a journalist, smashing her glasses and seizing her camera.View Entire Story
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