Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak called on the army to take charge of security along with the riot police after hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets of Cairo, Port Suez, Alexandria, Giza and other cities yesterday.
Workers throughout Egypt defied the over 300,000 special riot police who had been mobilised, demanding ‘Mubarak must go’.
As Mubarak sought to impose a 6.00pm curfew, and army patrols entered the streets, tens of thousands of workers battled their way across the Nile to occupy central Cairo, setting government buildings alight.
Workers showed no fear as security forces fired US-made tear gas canisters at point-blank range.
Workers shouted that they would fight until Mubarak and his family have been driven out of power.
Earlier, security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters in central Cairo, where some of the larger demonstrations were held.
Trucks of police armed with water cannons lined Cairo avenues as government forces attempted to disperse crowds.
Police also put opposition leader Mohamed El Baradei, who had fled into a mosque, under house arrest.
Before yesterday’s uprising over 1,000 protesters had reportedly been carted away and many beaten, and so far a dozen people are believed to have been killed.
The authorities sought to halt the movement by shutting down the internet and mobile phone network in a bid to stop protesters mobilising after over 90,000 people had signed up to a Facebook event on Tuesday.
‘One social media outlet rallying people to the street has 381,000 supporters at the last count,’ said Hisham Kassem, a respected independent editor.
However, closing down the internet and facebook had no impact, since at that point millions of workers had joined the struggle.
They have their own programme since unemployment levels among Egypt’s youth are dire; estimates say 25 per cent of men and 59 per cent of young women are without work, and wages are low.
One demonstrator predicted: ‘In a few days it will be over. It will get bigger and bigger with the military participating.’
The revolutionary movement has shaken the West.
In Washington, US President Obama said political reforms were ‘absolutely critical’ to Egypt’s ‘long-term well-being’.