By Polly Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
CAIRO, Egypt – Protestors were beat with fists and sticks, sprayed with tear gas, killed by police and burned to death, amidst unprecedented anti-government demonstrations in Cairo.
Activists took to the streets yesterday, demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s nearly thirty-year rule and a solution to such issues as poverty, rising prices and high unemployment.
Despite the massive police presence and response, powerful security forces, and international calls to avoid violence, more than two thousand demonstrators continued to march on a major downtown boulevard along the Nile on Wednesday night, marking the second day of protests.
Inspired by the uprising in Tunisia, chanters shouted, “Mubarek, Saudi Arabia awaits you. Out! Out! Revolution until victory,” and “Down with Hosni Mubarek, down with the tyrant. We don’t want you!”
On Tuesday, at least four people died and one hundred security personnel were injured. In anticipation of continued riots on Wednesday, thousands of policemen in riot gear gathered in major areas such as intersections and squares, outside the state television building and at Mubarek’s National Democratic Party headquarters. The largest protest took place in Tahrir Square.
The Interior Ministry urged “citizens to renounce attempts to bid and trade their problems and not lose sight of the consequences of provocation for those who attempt to try to open the door to a state of chaos or portray the situation in the country this way.”
The size and strength of the protest was in part fueled by activists’ use of social networking sites. A Facebook group listed places around Cairo where demonstrations would take place and posted, “All of Egypt must move, at one time.” By Tuesday night, Twitter had shut down, and Facebook was partially blocked by Wednesday afternoon.
The demonstrations come in a presidential election year. Mubarek, who is eighty-two years old, has not said whether he intends to run for another six-year term. Some think that his son, Gamal, will succeed him, a thought that both father and son deny.
The United States has taken a careful stance on the situation, as Egypt is a strong ally. Both White House spokesman Robert Gibbs and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasized that all parties should refrain from violence. Clinton called on authorities not to block social media sites.
Clinton added that Washington believed that the Egyptian government was “stable” and “looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.”
For more information, please see:
BBC – Egypt protests: Police disperse Cairo crowds – 26 January 2011
CNN – Protesters in Egypt greeted by a police crackdown – 26 January 2011
Guardian – Egypt protests are breaking new ground – 25 January 2011
NPR – Egypt says it will smash further political protests – 26 January 2011
Reuters – Egypt’s protests deepen uncertainty over leadership – 26 January 2011