Massive protests continue today in the streets of several major cities in Egypt, with modest estimates of the crowd in Cairo alone at 80,000 and others putting the figure at well over 100,000, with police firing live ammo and tear gas and arresting thousands of dissidents.
Despite the harsh tactics, police seem to be wholly incapable of curbing the unrest, with reports that the ruling party’s political headquarters may have been set on fire. This has led to Mubarak government to impose a broad curfew and deploy the military against the protesters.
The protests appear to be extremely broad-based, with early protests amongst the unemployed quickly being backed both by moderate pro-democracy figures like Mohamed ElBaradei and the religious opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood, also joining in today.
Speaking of former IAEA Chief Mohamed ElBaradei, reports now say that the Egyptian government has placed him under house arrest after he tried to join today’s protests, and police beat some of his supporters when they tried to protect him.
Though his domestic support seems to be dwindling, Western officials are expressing hope that Hosni Mubarak will eventually be able to crush the dissent. Vice President Joe Biden insisted that Mubarak’s repression doesn’t make him a “dictator” as such, and that the US continues to support his rule. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley reiterated that support, saying Mubarak’s support for Israel makes him a “stabilizing” force in the region.