CAIRO—Thousands of anti-government protesters, some hurling rocks and climbing atop an armoured police truck, clashed with riot police Tuesday in the centre of Cairo in a Tunisia-inspired demonstration to demand the end of Hosni Mubarak’s nearly 30 years in power.
Police responded with blasts from a water cannon and set upon protesters with batons and acrid clouds of tear gas.
Tuesday’s demonstration, the largest Egypt has seen for years, began peacefully, with police showing unusual restraint in what appeared to be a concerted government effort not to provoke a Tunisia-like mass revolt.
As the crowds in downtown Cairo’s main Tahrir square continued to build, however, security personnel changed tactics and the protest turned violent.
Demonstrators attacked the police water canon 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 downtown demonstrators.
To the north, in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, thousands of protesters also marched in what was dubbed a “Day of Rage” against Mubarak and calling for an end to the country’s grinding poverty.
The protests coincided with a national holiday honouring the country’s much-feared police. In another parallel with the Tunisia protests, the calls for rallies went out on Facebook and Twitter, with 90,000 saying they would attend.
The demonstrators in Cairo sang the national anthem and carried banners denouncing Mubarak and widespread fraud in the country’s elections. The organizers said the protests were a “day of revolution against torture, poverty, corruption and unemployment.”
Mothers carrying babies marched and chanted “Revolution until Victory!” while young men parked their cars on the main street and waved signs reading “OUT!” inspired by the Tunisian protestations of “DEGAGE!” this week. Men were seen spraying graffiti reading “Down with Hosni Mubarak.”
“We want to see change just like in Tunisia,” said Lamia Rayan, 24, one of the protesters.