CAIRO (Reuters) - More than 200,000 Egyptians poured into Tahrir Square in Cairo on Tuesday hoping to gather a million people to bring an end to 30 years of President Hosni Mubarak’s authoritarian rule.
The army’s pledge on Monday not to use force against demonstrators emboldened Egyptians to push for the biggest shake-up of the political system since 1952 when army officers deposed King Farouk.
“Mubarak go away to Saudi or Bahrain” and “We don’t want you, we don’t want you”, chanted men, women and children in a sea of people that began gathering from the early hours.
The scenes in Tahrir, or Liberation Square, were in sharp contrast to Friday when police beat, teargassed and sprayed water cannon on protesters.
There had been talk the protesters, some shouting “Revolution, Revolution, until victory,” on Tuesday would march on the presidential palace but by midday with numbers still swelling the crowd had not moved from the square, the focal point of the unrest.
Initially unorganised, the protests against Mubarak are gradually coalescing into a loose reformist movement encompassing many sections of Egyptian society. Young, unemployed mixed with members of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, the urban poor held hands in solidarity with doctors and teachers.
“We are calling for the overthrow of the regime. We have one goal, and that is to remove Hosni, nothing else. Our politicians need to step in and form coalitions and committees to propose a new administration,” said Ahmed Abdelmoneim, 25, a computer engineer.
Effigies of Mubarak, who like all his predecessors was a senior military officer, were strung up from traffic lights.
Mubarak has not addressed the nation since Friday, when he sacked his cabinet. On Monday, it was his newly appointed vice president, Omar Suleiman, who announced a call for dialogue with all political forces. Protesters scent victory.
“The revolution won’t accept Omar Suleiman, even for a transitional period. We went a new democratic leader,” said Mohamed Saber, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
“We are very patient, we can stay here a long time ... For the last 30 years this regime brought the worst out of the people. Now everyone is speaking out. Before everyone was negative and passive,” said Mahmoud Ali, 42, a civil servant.
What will come after Mubarak if he steps down is not so clear. Egypt’s opposition has been fragmented and weakened under Mubarak. The Muslim Brotherhood has the biggest grassroots network with its health and other social charity projects.
The group, banned from politics under Mubarak, says it wants an Islamic, pluralistic and democratic state.
“Our country has many people capable of being president,” said Essam Kamel, 48, a lawyer, although he said he did not want Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, who has said he was ready to take on a role in the transition.
But Kamel added: “We are Muslims, but we don’t need an Islamic government.”
Additional reporting by Alexander Dziadosz and Jonathan Wright, Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Matthew Jones