Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Egypt protesters clash for 2nd day with police

By MAGGIE MICHAEL and HADEEL AL-SHALCHI, Associated Press Jan. 26, 2011

CAIRO – Security officials say one protester and one policeman have been
killed in an anti-government protest in central Cairo, bringing to six the
number of people killed in two days of demonstrations against President
Hosni Mubarak's regime.

The policeman and the protester were killed by rocks thrown by both sides
in a clash in a poor neighborhood in the center of the capital.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not
authorized to release information to journalists.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information.
AP's earlier story is below.

CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian anti-government activists pelted police with
firebombs and rocks in a second day of clashes Wednesday in defiance of an
official ban on any protests. Beefed up police forces on the streets
quickly moved in and used tear gas, beatings and live ammunition fired in
the air to disperse any demonstrations.

There were signs that the crackdown on protesters was taking a toll on
Egypt's international standing. In Washington, White House Spokesman
Robert Gibbs would not say whether President Hosni Mubarak, the target of
demonstrators' anger and a close U.S. ally, still has the Obama
administration's support. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the
government should allow peaceful protests instead of cracking down.

"We are particularly hopeful that the Egyptian government will take this
opportunity to implement political, economic and social reforms that will
answer the legitimate interests of the Egyptian people," Clinton said. She
appealed to Egypt's leaders to heed calls to open political space for
dissent and improve conditions that have led to widespread poverty and

Security officials said a total of 860 protesters have been rounded up
nationwide since Tuesday, when tens of thousands turned out for the
largest protests in Egypt in years — inspired by the uprising in Tunisia.
They demanded Mubarak's ouster and a solution to grinding poverty, rising
prices and high unemployment.

"What happened yesterday was a red light to the regime. This is a
warning," businessman Said Abdel- Motalib said on Wednesday.

After nightfall Wednesday, more than 2,000 demonstrators were marching on
a major downtown boulevard along the Nile when dozens of riot police with
helmets and shields charged the crowd. Other smaller clashes carried on
late into the night around the capital. In one of them, protesters stoned
police, who fired back with tear gas from one of the main bridges over the

Though Wednesday's demonstrations were much smaller, it was significant
that protesters were able to sustain the movement over two days given the
heavy handedness police have shown and the Interior Ministry's warning
that there would be zero tolerance for any more unrest.

They were the latest in outbursts of political discontent in Egypt that
have been growing more frequent and more intense over the past year.
Protests have erupted sporadically over police brutality, poverty and food
prices, government corruption and mismanagement, and more recently
sectarian strife between Christians and Muslims. Parliamentary elections
in November were widely decried as fraudulent.

Many in Egypt see these events as signs of the authoritarian president's
vulnerability in an election year. There is speculation that 82-year-old
Mubarak, who has been in power for nearly 30 years and recently
experienced serious health problems, may be setting his son Gamal up for
hereditary succession. But there is considerable public opposition and,
according to leaked U.S. diplomatic memos, it does not meet with the
approval of the powerful military. And the regime's tight hold on power
has made it virtually impossible for any serious alternative to Mubarak to

European leaders had harsh words for Egypt and expressed concern, saying
the events underlined the need for democratization and respect for human
and civil rights.

Activists used social networking sites to call for fresh demonstrations
Wednesday. But Facebook, a key tool used to organize protests, appeared to
be at least partially blocked in the afternoon. On Tuesday, Twitter and
cell phones appeared to be sporadically blocked as well.

The Interior Ministry warned Wednesday that police would not tolerate any
gatherings, and thousands were out on the streets poised to crack down
quickly on any new signs of unrest after clashes on Tuesday that killed
three demonstrators and one police officer.

Early Wednesday, thousands of policemen in riot gear and backed by armored
vehicles took up posts in Cairo on bridges across the Nile, at major
intersections and squares as well as outside key installations such as the
state TV building and the headquarters of Mubarak's ruling National
Democratic Party.

Police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd of several hundred activists on
a main commercial thoroughfare in central Cairo, chasing them through side
streets as both sides pelted each other with rocks with hundreds of
onlookers watching anxiously. Plainclothes officers shoved some into
waiting vans, slapping them in the face. Protesters hurled rocks at police
trucks and set tires and trash on fire as they marched.

Protesters also attacked a military vehicle, smashing its windows and
hurling rocks at a couple of green police trucks.

The day's demonstrations began when dozens gathered outside the
Journalists' Union in downtown Cairo and renewed the chants heard against
Mubarak throughout Tuesday's much larger protests. "Mubarak is leaving,
leaving. O Egyptian people, be brave and join us," they chanted. As police
charged the crowd, beating them with sticks, they chanted "peaceful,

At some of the trouble spots, plainclothes policemen have been ordering
passengers on Cairo's ubiquitous minibuses to clear out and then quickly
filling them up with detained protesters.

In the city of Suez east of Cairo, an angry crowd of about 1,000 people
gathered outside the city's morgue demanding to take possession and bury
the body of one of three protesters who died in clashes on Tuesday. The
crowd later clashed with riot police and the two sides pelted each other
with rocks. Protesters also threw firebombs at police, who responded with
rubber bullets and tear gas.

Later, about 300 protesters laid siege to a police station in the city's
downtown, throwing rocks. Police responded by firing live ammunition in
the air.

"We don't have jobs and now we don't have peace," lamented Zeinab
Abdullah, a 45-year-old government employee, who left work early to watch
protests in Suez. "There is no way people will be quieted after this. The
people of Suez will get angrier and angrier. That is a guarantee."

In the southern city of Assiut, eyewitnesses said riot police set upon
some 100 activists staging an anti-government protest Wednesday, beating
them up with batons and arresting nearly half of them.

"Down, down Hosni Mubarak," chanted the crowd. "Oh, people, join us or you
will be next."

There were protests in at least three other locations across Egypt.

At least eight journalists have been arrested in the troubles. Police
arrested an Associated Press Television News cameraman and his assistant
early Wednesday while they were filming clashes in Cairo. An AP
photographer was beaten by a policeman and had his cheekbone fractured
while shooting demonstrations late Tuesday.

Many protesters say they have been inspired by the uprising in Tunisia —
even invoking some of the identical slogans heard in the other north
African nation.

On Tuesday, protesters clashed with police, who used rubber bullets, water
cannons, tear gas and truncheons to disperse them.

Security officials said up to 200 protesters were detained early Wednesday
in this Arab nation of some 80 million people. More were likely to be
detained as authorities review police video tapes of the protests, the
officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not
authorized to speak to the media.

European reaction to the crackdown was critical. German Foreign Minister
Guido Westerwelle said he was "very concerned" and called on all concerned
to show restraint.

"The situation in Egypt must not escalate," he said. "The current
situation in Egypt ... underlines the necessity of democratization, of
respect for human and civil rights," Westerwelle told reporters in Berlin,
pointing to the need for freedom of opinion, assembly and the press to be

"We are seeing in the last few weeks that a country's stability is not
endangered by granting civil rights — it is through the refusal of civil
and human rights that societies become unstable," he said in a reference
to Tunisia.

The European Union said Egyptian authorities should listen to their
people, deal with their problems and respect their right to demonstrate.
The office of EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton urged "Egyptian
authorities to respect and to protect the right of Egyptian citizen to
manifest their political aspirations."

Protesters have vented anger over a host of ills in Egyptian society.

Nearly half of all Egyptians live under or just above the poverty line,
set by the World Bank at $2 a day. The widespread poverty, high
unemployment and rising food prices pose a threat to Mubarak's regime at a
time when tensions between Muslims and Christians are adding to the
nation's woes.

A parliamentary election marred by allegations of widespread fraud that
saw Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party win all but a small number
of the chamber's 518 seats.

In recent weeks, Mubarak and his son have repeatedly vowed to ensure that
ambitious economic reforms engineered by the younger Mubarak over the past
decade filter down to the poor. But that has not happened and there has
been a marked increase in the frequency of street protests over the

Egypt's benchmark stock index tumbled more than 6 percent by close
Wednesday, the lowest level in about eight months and the first concrete
sign that the demonstrations have impacted the country's economy.


Associated Press reporter Hadeel Al-Shalchi contributed to this report
from Suez, Egypt.

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