“Down, down Hosni Mubarak,” chanted the crowd. “Oh, people, join us or you will be next.”
There were protests in at least three other locations across Egypt.
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.
On Tuesday, protesters clashed with police, who used rubber bullets, water cannons, tear gas and truncheons to disperse them.
Security officials said up to 200 protesters were detained early Wednesday in this Arab nation of some 80 million people. More were likely to be detained as authorities review police video tapes of the protests, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
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,” Mr. 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.
The European Union said Egyptian authorities should listen to their people, deal with their problems and respect their right to demonstrate. The office of EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton urged “Egyptian authorities to respect and to protect the right of Egyptian citizen to manifest their political aspirations.”
Protesters have vented anger over a host of ills in Egyptian society.
Nearly half of all Egyptians live under or just above the poverty line, set by the World Bank at $2 a day. The widespread poverty, high unemployment and rising food prices pose a threat to Mubarak’s regime at a time when tensions between Muslims and Christians are adding to the nation’s woes.
In recent weeks, Mr. Mubarak and his son have repeatedly vowed to ensure that ambitious economic reforms engineered by the younger Mr. Mubarak over the past decade filter down to the poor. But that has not happened and there has been a marked increase in the frequency of street protests over the economy.
Egypt’s benchmark stock index tumbled more than 6 percent by close Wednesday, the lowest level in about eight months and the first concrete sign that the demonstrations have impacted the country’s economy.
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