CAIRO, Egypt - Thousands of anti-government protesters wielding rocks, glass and sticks chased hundreds of riot police away from the main square in downtown Cairo and several of the policemen stripped off their uniforms and badges and joined the demonstrators.
An Associated Press reporter saw the protesters cheering the police who joined them and hoisting them on their shoulders in one of the many dramatic and chaotic scenes across Egypt on Friday.
After chasing the police, thousands of protesters were able to flood into the huge Tahrir Square downtown after being kept out most of the day by a very heavy police presence. Few police could be seen around the square after the confrontation.
Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters poured into the streets of Egypt today, stoning and confronting police who fired back with rubber bullets and tear gas in the most violent and chaotic scenes yet in the challenge to President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule.
Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei was soaked by water can|non and forced to take refuge in a mosque. Authorities later said ElBaradei was under house arrest.
Groups of thousands of protesters, some chanting "Out! Out! Out!" gathered at least six venues in Cairo.
Many marched toward major squares and across Nile bridges. Security officials said there were protests in at least 11 of the country's 28 provinces.
-- Associated Press
Al Jazeera reporting that NDP headquarters set on fire, downtown Cairo police station and police car set on fire.
Local time in Cairo right now is 7:00pm. Protesters have resumed demonstrations after the final prayers of the day. Police cars and the NDP headquarters are reportedly on fire.
Egypt's military deployed on the streets of Cairo to enforce a nighttime curfew as the sun set Friday on a day of rioting and chaos that amounted to the biggest challenge ever to authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year regime.
Flames rose up across a number of cities from burning tires and police cars. Even the ruling party headquarters in Cairo was ablaze in the outpouring of rage, bitterness and utter frustration with a regime seen as corrupt, heavy-handed and neglectful of grinding poverty that afflicts nearly half of the 80 million Egyptians.
Hillary Clinton in Washington, D.C.: We call on the Egyptian government to do everything in its power to restrain the security forces. Protesters should do everything in their power to express themselves peacefully.
Al Jazeera: A military armored personnel carrier is now in Alexandria
AP: Protesters have stormed Egyptian Foreign Ministry building
Reuters: Angela Merkel saying basically same thing [as Clinton] from Davos, calling for an end to the violence and warning that there will be innocent victims.
CNN: appears security forces are firing live rounds and teargas as protesters attack police station in Cairo
Professor Hermida, can you comment on the role of social media in helping people organize and how it has been affected by blackouts in recent days?
I used to be based in Cairo in the early 1990s for the BBC. In countries like Egypt, part of the government's power comes from controlling the media. What social media does is allow citizens to get around controls on the media, by sharing information and connecting around a common cause.
How does the situation in Egypt compare to what we saw recently in Iran?
The government's response has been to disconnect the internet as well as suspending mobile phone services. By doing this, it is trying to make it harder for people to organise, but also to find out what is happening in different parts of the capital and in other cities. It is an attempt to enforce its control of the media.
Update: Global News reporter Stuart Greer safely landed in Cairo on Friday.
Currently no email/Internet access, landline phone only.
The protests in Iran were largely politically coordinated by the opposition. In Egypt, there is no one opposition politician that has emerged as the leader of the protests. Instead what we are seeing is different groups coming together, frustrated with corruption and repression. Social media services such as Facebook are a way to spread information about protests and show solidarity with one another.
How do you think the situation would have unfolded without social media? Would there had to have been a political opposition to get the same result?
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged the Egyptian government to allow peaceful demonstrations.
Merkel told reporters at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Friday that the stability of Egypt was "extremely important but not at the price of freedom of expression." -- Associated Press
We all need information to make decisions. Social media provides a channel for Egyptians to share information, find out what is happening. It gives everything their own printing press or TV station. But social media didn't cause the protests. These have taped into long-running and deep-seated resentment at 30 years of autocratic rule, exacerbated by the economic crisis. But social media services have been a catalyst, helping to spread information about the protests and providing a way to share details about what is happening where. We say the role of journalism is to provide citizens with the information they need to be free and self-governing. In societies where the media is censored, social media has filled the void, with citizens themselves reporting on what is happening around them.
But social media can also be used as a tool of repression. We saw this in Iran, where the authorities were monitoring what was said on Twitter and used the same tools to spread disinformation and identify protesters.
Could you comment on censorship on the media from the time you spent at the BBC in Cairo and how things may have changed since you were there?
Seeing a 140 character tweet is not going to overthrow the Mubarak regime. But it can be a call to action, inspire others to take to the streets and realize that there are others like you who want to see political change.
Update: protesters in Suez are defying curfew. AP is reporting that Mubarak has expanded the night curfew nationwide, an acknowledgement of how serious and widespread the anti-government protests are. Local time in Egypt: 8:00p.m., the curfew has been in place for two hours.