Egyptian Democracy Protests Expand
Hundreds of pro-democracy protesters have rallied in 15 Egyptian cities and towns, despite a government crackdown.
Spokesmen for the organisers, Kifaya (Enough), said the police arrested 125 protesters but all except two had been released by nightfall.
Witnesses in some cities, including Suez in the east and Benha in the Nile Delta, reported that police beat protesters with batons to disperse them.
The organisers said they were pleased that the protests to press for reforms had spread from Cairo to the provinces.
“We are expanding to cover all of Egypt,” said Amin Iskandar, a leader of the group, Egyptian Movement for Change.
In Cairo, hundreds of riot police barred 300 protesters from the Supreme Court, so they assembled on the steps of the nearby journalists syndicate.
“Down with Mubarak! Down with Suleiman!” the demonstrators chanted, referring to President Hosni Mubarak and his chief of intelligence, Omar Suleiman.
About 1,200 people rallied in the southern city of Luxor, including lawyers and Islamists. Hundreds also gathered in the southern cities of Minya and Qena, and at venues in northern Egypt including Alexandria, Suez and Benha.
In Cairo more than 30 truckloads of policemen in riot gear blocked the streets around the Supreme Court downtown, the intended site of the demonstration, with plainclothes officers dispersing the first demonstrators to arrive by forcing taxis to halt, shoving the protesters inside and ordering the drivers to move along.
About 200 participants, including a smattering of well-known Egyptian writers, filmmakers and politicians, regrouped on the front steps of the nearby Journalists’ Syndicate.
They stood, hemmed in by the police, for more than four hours chanting antigovernment slogans, including their trademark catchphrase of “Kifaya!” – “Enough!” in Arabic – referring to their primary demand that President Hosni Mubarak step aside after 24 years in power.
“The government is trying to give the impression that we have freedom here, that the movement is small, because few people are interested,” said Tamer Wagih, one of the organizers of the Cairo demonstration. “I am not saying that Kifaya is a movement that everyone wants to join, but if they let us march freely in the streets there would be at least 100,000 people here.”