MASSES of Egyptians flooded into Cairo’s Tahrir Square yesterday, responding to the calls for a million-strong march to demand the removal of President Mubarak.
Simultaneously, another massive demonstration was taking place in Alexandria, at the start of an indefinite general strike to topple Mubarak.
Tahrir Square was completely filled, with more demonstrators, young and old, arriving.
Sections of the army joined them and an effigy of Mubarak was hanged from a tank’s gun barrel.
There were no police in sight.
The crowds in Cairo and Alexandria grew larger and louder by the hour in their calls for Mubarak to go and remained on the streets as nightfall approached.
Military helicopters were hovering above the crowds in Cairo.
The spirits of the crowds were high, with people singing and chanting and carrying homemade anti-Mubarak placards and banners.
‘We are not going to leave this square until Husni Mubarak goes,’ they declared.
‘All of us want this . . . This is a spontaneous revolution.’
Other people carried a coffin representing the end of the Mubarak regime.
Many main streets in both cities were packed with people as a ‘one million’ call turned into a demonstration of many millions, including entire families – men, women and children.
It is a week since the popular insurrection began.
Many government buildings are burnt out after more than a hundred Egyptians were killed by the armed police in clashes last week.
Mubarak’s decision to dismiss other members of his regime did nothing to placate the anger of the masses in a country of 80 million-plus people, where workers and youth are facing destitution without jobs or the money to cover the rising cost of food.
The Turkish leader, Erdogan, called off a visit to Egypt, while Jordan’s king dismissed his government as the revolutionary workers movement sweeps across the Arab world.
The crowds on the streets of Egypt demanded that Mubarak be gone by the end of the day, while some commentators thought he could hold out until Friday, but no longer, after 30 years in power.
The army pledged at the start of the day that it would not use force against the masses and respected the ‘legitimate rights of the people’ – a decisive blow against the regime, which was desperately trying to cling on to power.
Mubarak’s newly-appointed vice-president, Omar Suleiman, had pledged cross-party talks on constitutional reform, but this cut no ice with demonstrators.
A United Nations official, Navi Pillay, said up to 300 Egyptians are thought to have been killed in clashes in the last week.
As tensions mounted, the US State Department announced it had ordered all non-emergency US embassy and government personnel to leave Egypt.
Further demonstrations were staged in Suez, Mansoura, Assiut and Luxor.
With a general strike taking place, transport was very limited.
Meanwhile, in Tahrir Square, Egyptians continued discussing, making speeches, and chanting ‘Freedom or death!’ and ‘Mubarak go!’
Efforts to install Mohamed ElBaradei as a ‘transitional leader’ have been met with open hostility by many Egyptians on the streets.