Egyptian military police use violence to break up anniversary protest in Tahrir Square

Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, February 26, 2011; 7:45 AM

CAIRO - A demonstration to celebrate the one-month anniversary of the Egyptian uprising turned violent early Saturday as authorities beat, arrested and tasered protesters, forcing them out of Tahrir Square.

With their faces covered by masks, authorities began pushing protesters out of the square at midnight, saying they were imposing a curfew. They beat protesters with sticks and fired shots in the air.

The clash highlighted ongoing tensions in Egypt as some protesters press demands for democratic reforms and the dismissal of the prime minister and cabinet members from the government of ousted president Hosni Mubarak. At the same time, military leaders now in charge have urged protesters to go home and allow the country to return to normal.

By Saturday morning, military leaders issued a statement through their newly created Facebook page apologizing to protesters for the late-night crackdown by military police and saying it was not authorized. The Supreme Council of Armed Forced also issued a decision for the immediate release of all protesters detained during the violence.

The protest began on Friday with a mood of celebration and reflection. Tens of thousands of Egyptians gathered in the square where their unexpected journey originated, taking stock of what they have accomplished and affirming what they want next.

Banners, chants and conversations made clear that the crowds in Tahrir Square were of a single mind: Freedom has been won but not yet guaranteed. The generals ruling the country remain trusted, but they must replace the prime minister and his cabinet, lift a long-standing emergency law and put the Interior Ministry police under civilian control.

More than anything, the demonstrators seemed proud. Not only had they deposed Hosni Mubarak, their president of 30 years, but the example they provided, along with that of Tunisia, also has inspired their neighbors to pursue their own quests for freedom.

On Friday, that call resounded across the region, in some places at high cost. A "Day of Rage" in Iraq sent tens of thousands rallying nationwide for government reform and an end to corruption. At least 23 people were killed.

In Yemen, rent by recent deadly protests, tens of thousands of people gathered peacefully in the southern city of Taiz to demand that President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down.

Many had come from outside Taiz, suggesting that the clamor for Saleh's resignation might be widening.

In the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, anti-government demonstrators and Saleh supporters staged rival rallies under heavy security. Saleh had instructed security forces to protect demonstrators and prevent clashes, after the deaths of at least 19 people nationwide over the past nine days.

The dead include two activists killed Friday in clashes between protesters and security forces in the restive southern city of Aden, where more than 10,000 people took to the streets, according to Reuters.

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