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Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Cairo on Tuesday, facing a massive police presence, to demand the

Emulating Tunisia’s uprising

Thousands of Egyptian protesters brave massive police presence in Cairo to demand Mubarak’s ouster.

 

By Samer al-Atrush - CAIRO

 ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in a protest inspired by Tunisia's popular uprising.

Despite some 20,000 to 30,000 police being deployed in the centre of the capital, demonstrators broke police barriers to march towards central Tahrir Square, and police fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse them.

Carrying Egyptian flags and chanting anti-government slogans, the protestors temporarily withdrew but quickly regrouped.

In a nearby road that leads to parliament, police sprayed water cannons as protesters threw stones.

Some protesters managed to commandeer a riot police truck and drive it for a few metres (yards).

A security official said around 15,000 people were demonstrating in the capital.

Protests also broke out in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, the Nile Delta cities of Mansura and Tanta and in the southern cities of Aswan and Assiut, witnesses said.

Protesters across the country chanted "Down with Mubarak" and held signs that read "Tunisia is the solution."

Thousands gathered in Alexandria, Egypt's second-largest city, a security official said.

Hundreds gathered in Mansura, waving Egyptian flags and demanding more rights for Egyptians.

In the port city of Ismailiya, over 1,000 chanted anti-government slogans and warned other Arab leaders they would meet the same fate as former Tunisian strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted by a popular uprising after 23 years in power.

"Zine El Abidine, who is coming next," they shouted.

In the north Sinai town of Al-Mahdia, near the Israeli border, hundreds demanded the release of political prisoners and an end to police heavy-handedness.

Police were restrained for the most part, demonstrators said.

"We will never harm them; these are our people," one senior police official said.

The call was first launched by pro-democracy youth group the April 6 movement, to coincide with a national holiday to celebrate Police Day.

Among demands are the ouster of Interior Minster Habib al-Adly, whose police and security forces have been accused of heavy-handedness; the removal of the decades-old emergency law and a rise in minimum wages.

The interior ministry has warned that it would deal "firmly" with all those who behave illegally.

"The security is able to deal with any threat to the safety of its people, and will not take lightly any damage to property or breaches of the law," Habib al-Adly warned in an interview with the state-owned Al-Ahram daily.

The protests have been inspired by a wave of street riots in Tunisia that ended the rule of veteran strongman Ben Ali earlier this month.

Amnesty International urged the authorities not to crack down on the protests.

"Egypt needs to allow peaceful protests, and stop arresting and intimidating peaceful opposition activists," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director for its Middle East and North Africa programme.

"The country’s security forces have a worrying record when dealing with demonstrators, and we urge them to refrain from excessive and disproportionate force tomorrow," said a statement on Monday.

In December, the self-immolation of 26-year-old Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi unleashed a wave of street riots across the North African country that culminated in the dramatic ouster of Ben Ali after 23 years in power.

Bouazizi's attempt to draw attention to economic hardship and repression sparked a series of copycat public torchings in Egypt, Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

Tunisian grievances have been echoed throughout the Arab world, whose mainly autocratic leaders were unnerved by events in Tunisia.

The authorities have rejected the idea that the Tunisian scenario could spill over into Egypt.

But in a sign of anxiety over public discontent, they have recently tried to reassure the public that subsidies on basic commodities will remain in place.

Around 40 percent of Egypt's 80-million population live on around two dollars per day, and a large part of the population relies on subsidised goods.

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