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.
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Why the stakes are higher in Egypt than Tunisia
Political analyst Mustapha Kamel Al Sayyid says the fact that the protests took place across the nation, and were not led by a particular political movement or opposition party, set them apart from demonstrations in the last decade.Skip to next paragraph
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“This time it is really a national movement. It’s quite remarkable that the slogans raised by the demonstrators were not typical of any political party. They were general slogans about democracy, ending the state of emergency, and lowering prices.... The government will not respond favorably so I think the continuation of the protests is almost certain.”
For the US and many others, the stakes in Egypt are much higher than they were in Tunisia. Ben Ali presided over a small country with just 10 million people and with one of the weakest Islamist movements in the region.
Egypt is home to 80 million people, it is one of only two Arab states to make peace with Israel, and has been closely allied with the US, giving free passage to US warships through the Suez canal in wartime, policing militant infiltration into and out of the Gaza Strip, and receiving billions of dollars in US aid over the years in return.
The US views the country as a crucial partner for pushing for Israeli-Palestinian peace. And Egypt is home to the Muslim Brotherhood, the large Islamist opposition group that would like to eventually make Islamic law the law of the land.
'We want these words to reach the West'
In Cairo, security forces were making a desperate stand today, but protesters were determined to press on. As the protesters from Mustafa Mahmoud mosque made their way through toward the Qasr el-Nil bridge that leads to Tahrir Square, there were people standing on their balconies waving to the people, waving flags, giving them thumbs up. The protesters down below were shouting, “Come down, come down and join us.”
When they reached the bridge, they were confronted by riot police and armed personnel carriers as they massed to cross the bridge. They repeatedly surged forward, trying to break the police cordon, and then retreated amid billowing clouds of tear gas only to surge again.
One demonstrator held aloft a sign that read "Game over." It was written, like other signs, in English. Why? Protesters responded, “We want these words to reach the West.”
Dan Murphy reported from Boston.