Thousands protest in Egypt


Reporting from Cairo —

Thousands of Egyptian protesters inspired by the revolt in Tunisia rushed police and battled tear gas Tuesday in demonstrations against the political repression and unemployment that have defined three decades of rule by President Hosni Mubarak.

Groups of protesters marched through downtown Cairo, crossing bridges and outflanking riot police as the crowds headed for a square a few blocks from the parliament building. Security forces, which had shown unusual restraint early in the day, swung batons and clashed with demonstrators amid chants of “Freedom” and “Down with Mubarak.”

The protests were larger than any Egypt has seen in years. But it was unclear if the country's opposition could mimic Tunisia and capitalize on sustained public pressure to threaten one of the region's most entrenched police states. More than 80,000 people signed up on Facebook to attend the rallies but the number in the streets was far fewer.

Estimates suggested that at least several thousand protesters squared off against as many as 20,000 security forces. Cairo became a fluid maze of protesters rushing through traffic as helmeted police — their boots slapping the pavement — hurried to corral them on boulevards lined with amazed bystanders.

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