3 Reported Dead as Egyptians Protest to End Mubarak’s Rule
CAIRO — Thousands of people calling for the end of the 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak clashed with riot police officers here in the capital and in other Egyptian cities on Tuesday, on a day of some of the most serious civil unrest in recent memory.
Three people were reported killed, two protesters in the port town of Suez and a soldier who died of injuries sustained during the protests in Cairo.
The protesters, mobilized largely on the Internet and energized by recent events in Tunisia, occupied one of the city’s most famous squares for hours, beating back attempts to dislodge them by police officers wielding tear gas and water cannons.
“Freedom, freedom, freedom,” they chanted. “Where are the Egyptian people?”
Security officials said several thousand people demonstrated in Alexandria, and there were reports of large demonstrations in other cities, including Mansoura and Mahalla al-Kobra. There, a video posted on the Internet showed people tearing up a large portrait of Mr. Mubarak — an act whose boldness here is hard to overstate.
State television made no mention of the protests, and sporadically through the afternoon, cellphone networks were interrupted or unavailable.
There was no immediate count of arrests or injuries, but the clashes in Cairo left dozens of people bleeding in Tahrir Square, one of Cairo’s best-known settings, near the Egyptian Museum and a Ritz-Carlton Hotel under construction. Tourists gawked, and older protesters said they had never seen anything like the defiant demonstration.
Just blocks away, in sharp contrast, calm prevailed and traffic was light for Police Day, the national holiday the protesters co-opted for their campaign against the government.
Mohammed Ashraf, a 22-year-old law student, said the blood drenching his white sweater was that of a police officer. Like other protesters, he echoed the deep-seated frustrations of an enduring, repressive government that drove Tunisians to revolt: rampant corruption, injustice, high unemployment and the simple lack of dignity accorded them by the state.
“Our government is unjust,” Mr. Ashraf said. “I’m not happy. The state is very aggressive with people.”
At least six young Egyptians have set themselves on fire in recent weeks, in an imitation of the self-immolation that set off the Tunisian unrest. Egypt has forbidden gas stations to sell to people who are not in cars and placed security agents wielding fire extinguishers outside government offices.
Facebook and other social networking media played a large role in the Tunisian uprising, and seemed primed to play a role in Egypt as well. More than 90,000 people signed up on a Facebook page for the Tuesday protests, framed by the organizers as a stand against torture, poverty, corruption and unemployment. But the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most powerful opposition movement, said it would not officially participate, though some of its members joined the protesters in Cairo.
A small demonstration began sometime after noon but quickly swelled, with hundreds marching through winding streets as security officers formed a moving cordon. Scuffles broke out as the officers tried to halt the march by linking arms and forming lines.
One woman was injured when the officers pushed protesters against a wall near an entrance ramp to a bridge over the Nile River. But the demonstrators quickly escaped the cordon and marched down the riverside corniche, snarling traffic.
By the mid-afternoon, groups of people had converged in Tahrir Square, where they met security forces in full riot gear and a water cannon truck. Several people said the clashes began in earnest after protesters jumped on the truck and tried to take control of the water cannon.
Thousands occupied the square, including young men who threw rocks at the police. Some in the security force stooped to pick up the rocks and hurl them back at the protesters.
The marchers included young people documenting the clashes with cellphone cameras and middle-aged people carrying flags of the Wafd party, one of Egypt’s opposition groups. A young doctor, Wissam Abdulaziz, said she had traveled two hours to join the protest. She said she had been to one protest before, after the police were accused of fatally beating a young man in Alexandria to death last year.
“I came to change the government,” she said. “I came to change the entire regime.”
Liam Stack and Dawlat Magdy contributed.