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Egyptians flood the streets, defying police and calling for regime change

Many Egyptian protesters came out for the first time, despite fears of violent confrontation as police cracked down hard, to call for the fall of Hosni Mubarak's regime.

By Correspondent / January 28, 2011

Masked Egyptian demonstrators hold their national flag as they stand next to a burning riot police vehicle in Cairo on Jan. 28.

MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Newscom

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Cairo

At Cairo's Mustafa Mahmoud mosque today, there was at first just the calm rustling of thousands going through the Muslim prayer ritual.

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But when the prayer ended, first one voice and then thousands shouted, "The people want the regime to fall!" They poured out into the street, broke through a police cordon, and joined forces with other protesters to present the gravest threat to the regime of President Hosni Mubarak since he took power nearly 30 years ago.

By mid-afternoon, tens of thousands of Egyptians, braving tear gas and water cannons, were converging on Tahrir Square in central Cairo and protests were taking place across the country. Similar scenes were played out in hundreds of mosques in Cairo, Alexandria, and the gritty industrial towns of the Nile Delta.

A middle-aged woman in a Cairo crowd who had never participated in a demonstration before summed up the mood of a populace that, at least for today, has reached a breaking point.

“We didn’t just come here because of inflation or rising food prices. We came because we want freedom, because we’re tired of oppression, and because we hate the regime,” she says.

In Cairo, there were reports of increasingly savage beatings of protesters. In Suez, there were reports of a police station being burned to the ground. The son of Ayman Nour, an opposition activist who spent years in jail for challenging Mubarak, told Al Jazeera that a rock thrown by a policeman had sent his father to the hospital.

"If I’m understanding how this is unfolding, on Jan. 25 the government let them protest and blow off steam. Then after dark and the end of the news cycle, they went after people. And that pissed people off,” says Josh Stacher, a political scientist who studies Egypt at Kent State. “This is one of the first times in Egypt I’ve seen people out protesting for different reasons. In Suez, it’s police repression. In Mahallah, it’s economics. In Cairo, it’s political freedom. The Interior Minister said the other day the ‘Egyptian regime is not fragile.’ Well, when you say those kinds of things, it means you’re in trouble."

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