Downtown Cairo looked like a war zone Wednesday.
Police in both plain clothes and formal security uniforms were present by the thousands. Riot police were seen sleeping on, and manning, the 6 October and 15 May bridges - the main ones connecting main streets of the city -- since last night. Hundreds of people gathered in several streets downtown chanting "People want the regime down", "Copts and Muslims don't want this regime", and, "Bread, freedom, human integrity." They were chased and beaten fiercely, many of them also dragged off by force - by thugs and state security agents.
"They beat people and shoot them as if we are in Gaza," cried one protester, Soha, a woman in her twenties. "They even beat women."
Opposite the lawyers' and journalists' syndicates, gun shots bellowed through the air and both fire and smoke were seen. Reporters witnessed two lawyers nabbed from in front of their syndicate. They were brutally beaten and forcefully pushed into a micro pick-up truck. Colleagues ran to the truck, and pulled them by force through the vans large windows, yelling that what the police were doing was against the law. Crowds of protesters in the streets cheered in delight.
"We want the police to let us demonstrate peacefully, but they are beating, arresting, kidnapping people and firing at them as if this has worked for them in the past 30 years," Mamdouh Ismail, a member of the board of the lawyers' syndicate told Ahram Online.
In same downtown area, police fired bullets - allegedly rubber, although some have said live ammunition - at people, and they were beating protesters with sticks. They also beat down anyone on the street who crossed their paths, trying to ferociously prevent anyone with intention from joining the protests. In many cases, the violence struck even those who were coincidentally passing by Ahram Online reporters witnessed similar events throughout the city Wednesday afternoon and late into the evening.
Ahram Online reporter also saw police men in plain clothes, burning car tires and garbage., and preventing protesters from putting it off. Police men prevented young people from extinguishing the fire.
"This is our country, we won't burn it down, the government is hiring thugs to burn cars and throw stones," Sana Abdallah, a protester in her 20s told Ahram Online. "We love our country, that's why we want to change this unjust system."
Back at the lawyers' and journalists' syndicates protesters were cordoned off, not allowed in or out of the protests from noon until posting time. The slogans remained the same "People want the regime down." Lawyer Sameh Sami, who said he hasdn't slept for the past two days, refuses to move from in front of the syndicate saying, "I have been quiet for the past seven years, nothing has happened. Th government has to know we want them out. If there was a proper parliament they would have taken this government down. But this parliament is forged."
State security had also blocked off 26thof July Street in downtown to stop demonstrators marching from the area of Attaba into Tahrir, where all rioters had convened yesterday afternoon and late into the night.
The barricades brought traffic to a halt.
At the time this article was posted, hundreds of people were demonstrating in Boulac. The cracking sounds of tear gas grenades and gun shots continued to shake the city, echoing through the air. In Talaat Harb Square, also downtown, thugs had run amok. There too, reports of ferocious beatings, arrests, and an air thick with tear gas were coming in.
Despite the Interior Ministry's statement following yesterday's protests that any demonstrators venturing out on Wednesday would be detained, the protests ensued. As this article was posted, the streets of downtown were filled with smoke, and Tahrir Square had been blackened. Protesters seem determined, unwiling to yield, calling for activists and civilians alike to keep coming out onto the streets - in the coming days, but in particular on Friday, just after the midday prayers.
"Egypt is not a big country, with a stable regime that can not be shaken ever by thousands of protesters," said Habib El-Adly, interior minister.
In the meantime, the country's people remain at ill ease, wondering what the government has planned. Rumours of curfews circulated, but to-date it has been denied by official sources. "
Salma Wardani contributed reporting.
[At the time of this posting Ahram Online reporter Lina Wardani had been beaten in Boulac and arrested. She has since been released.]