Thousands of Egyptians were out in the streets for the second successive day after security forces, using water cannon and teargas, cleared large crowds that had gathered at a prominent Cairo landmark in the early hours of Wednesday.
The government banned all protests on Wednesday, a day after thousands across the country poured into the streets, clamouring for an end to the 30-year-old dictatorship of President Hosni Mubarak. Four persons, including a police officer, were killed in the clashes. Egyptian medical sources said around 150 protesters were injured and most of them hospitalised. Police fired around 50 teargas canisters, which covered Tahrir Square, the focal point of the agitation, with stinging grey smoke. On Tuesday, protests were held all over Egypt, including coastal Alexandria — already under stress on account of the recent attacks on its Christian community — Suez and North Sinai.
Despite the clampdown, the protests simmered in Cairo and other locations on Wednesday. The Egyptian daily Al Masry Al Youm reported on its website that protesting journalists managed to release a prominent scribe who was picked up by the police during a demonstration on Wednesday. Thousands gathered outside a lawyers' syndicate raising slogans “Bread, freedom and social equality.”
In North Sinai, villagers protested for the second day, seeking the release of several young men who had been kept in custody, especially in the notorious Wadi al-Natroun prison. Reuters reported that hundreds of demonstrators had gathered outside the mortuary in Suez calling for the release of one of the three bodies.
The protesters have several political demands, which go beyond seeking an end to the high food prices. Posted first on Facebook, these demands were circulated handwritten on plain slips of paper among the crowds that assembled at Tahrir Square on Tuesday, Al Jazeera television reported. The crowds called for the resignations of Mr. Mubarak and Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, dissolution of Parliament and the formation of a new national unity government.
“Down with Hosni Mubarak, down with the tyrant.” “We don't want you,” the crowds chanted.
The Muslim Brotherhood, an organisation which did not formally participate but allowed its members to join the protest, posted on its website Facebook's role in coordinating the marches.
It said the Facebook group for Khaled Said, an Alexandria resident who was beaten to death by the police last year, was one of the main organisers of the protest. Around 80,000 people had pledged to join the protests online.
On Wednesday, Egyptian authorities blocked Facebook, following up on a similar move on Tuesday against the micro-blogging site Twitter.