For days now, thousands of angry Egyptians have been demonstrating in the streets of several cities including Cairo, the capital.
Riot police have been circling neighborhoods and trying to keep the violence to a minimum. Protesters are demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s authoritarian 30-year-rule. They hurled rocks at police and shouted “Down, Down, Mubarak.”
Large water cannons and tear gas have been used to disperse the large crowds but without much luck with the persistent protesters.
Friday afternoons are usually the start of weekly prayers and the Muslim Brotherhood urged its followers to protest after the prayers. The Muslim Brotherhood is Egypt’s largest opposition block.
The opposition wants to install the Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei into power. He returned home to Cairo on Thursday.
At least 1,000 protesters have been spotted in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria. 15,000 further south in Suez. About 1,500 protesters were amassed in Amman, Jordan.
Facebook has also played a role in the protests with a page devoted to the demonstrations. The page has more than 80,000 followers as of Thursday afternoon compared with 20,000 on Wednesday. But, many internet servers in Egypt were down early Friday including Egyptian government sites for the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
“We are closely monitoring the situation and are aware that communication services, including social media, are being blocked,” U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday. “We continue to urge Egyptian authorities to show restraint and allow peaceful protests to occur.”
Egyptian television networks and state run media have normally ignored such demonstrations or blamed them on unsavory people. However, this time government critics have been voicing their opinions on TV and even a popular morning show included comments from guests calling in for the resignation of government officials.
The protests are essentially pro-democracy. The Egyptian people are becoming increasingly frustrated with the growing gap between the rich and the poor.