Egyptians denounce Mubarak, clash with riot policeTunisia seemed to have sparked the imaginations of a lot of people in the region. Egypt is a big fish in the Middle East and it will be very interesting how this plays out. I must wonder of a relatively free and stable Iraq, sitting in the center of the region, has anything to do with these uprisings.
Police responded with blasts from a water cannon and set upon crowds with batons and acrid clouds of tear gas to clear demonstrators crying out "Down with Mubarak" and demanding an end to the country's grinding poverty.
Tuesday's demonstration, the largest Egypt has seen for years, began peacefully, with police showing unusual restraint in what appeared to be a concerted government effort not to provoke a Tunisia-like mass revolt.
As the crowds in downtown Cairo's main Tahrir square continued to build, however, security personnel changed tactics and the protest turned violent.
Demonstrators attacked the police water canon truck, opening the driver's door and ordering the man out of the vehicle. Some hurled rocks and dragged metal barricades. Officers beat back protesters with batons as they tried to break cordons to join the main group of demonstrators downtown.
To the north, in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, thousands of protesters also marched in what was dubbed a "Day of Rage" against Mubarak and lack of political freedoms under his rule.
In another parallel with the Tunisia protests, the calls for rallies went out on Facebook and Twitter, with 90,000 saying they would attend.
The protests coincided with a national holiday honoring Egypt's much-feared police.
Alas, there were mass demonstrations in Iran and the Obama administration chose to withhold even favorable lip service from the demonstrators; I would be shocked if he doesn't adopt the same tactic with Egypt. No doubt the administration fears damaging relations with these regimes...as though they could get any worse.
I sincerely believe that unyielding verbal support for those demonstrators in Tunisia, Iran and Egypt could likely spur revolutions - instability is our friend. These people are tired of despotism, and they are out in the streets, risking their lives in that cause. It would be nice for them to know that the United States supports them, at least in spirit.