People have taken to the streets in Cairo by the thousands, calling for the end of Hosni Mubarak’s repressive, unpopular regime. On a national holiday meant for celebrating the state police force that keeps Mubarak in power, activists have called for a “day of revolution.” They appear to be getting one. For the first time in decades, people from across Egyptian society are mounting a mass protest even in the face of harsh suppression by the black-clad, helmeted, and US-funded police forces. The newfound momentum comes thanks to the successful uprising in Tunisia this month, which led to the ousting of another longstanding US-backed dictator.
The protests appear to have been largely organized through Facebook and Twitter, and in response the Egyptian government has been restricting access to those sites. Still, protests are spreading across the country.
What this young protester told Al Jazeera appears representative of the motives and motivations:
Mamdouh Khayrat, 23, travelled from the governorate of Qalubiya to attend protests in Cairo. He spoke to Al Jazeera’s Adam Makary. “We want a functioning government, we want Mubarak to step down, we don’t want emergency law, we don’t want to live under this kind of oppression anymore,” he said.
“Enough is enough, things have to change and if Tunisia can do it, why can’t we?” Khayrat added.
Most of the protesters are men, but there are also women and children, young and old, poor and professional, Islamist and leftist.
Are the protests nonviolent? News is only beginning to come in from the scene. There have been no signs that the protesters are armed, though it is widely reported that some are throwing rocks at the police, as well as dismantling police vehicles. The police have responded by throwing rocks back, as well as by deploying tear gas and water cannons.
CNN reports that protesters have put police “on the defensive” by storming the parliament building from Tahrir Square:
The reporter estimates “tens of thousands” of people.
Ironically, one call for nonviolence comes from Hillary Clinton, the a secretary of state who has continued the US’s policy of generous political and financial support for the Mubarak regime:
Clinton says Egyptians have the right to protest, but urged all parties to avoid violence.
I suppose we can second her on that.