The week-long demonstrations in Egypt tipped into violence today, the day after President Hosni Mubarak promised he would not run for reelection in September. He also insisted that he would remain in power until then, and, in language unsuitably brash for a man in his position, that he would “die on Egyptian soil.”
His speech failed to satisfy the 2 million protesters that had amassed in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demand an immediate regime change. So they stayed there.
And now today, large groups of Mubarak supporters converged on the square and trouble started. Journalists were attacked, and rocks and Molotov cocktails flew between opposing crowds. Men on horseback and camels charged at protesters. At least 500 injuries have been reported. Protesters say the Mubarak supporters are being paid by the government—and have displayed police ID tags they say were taken off the attackers. Army tanks are present, but have so far stayed inactive. Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei told Al-Jazeera, "I ask the army to intervene to protect Egyptian lives."
If the army does intervene—and it seems likely that it will have to do so—which side will it support? It’s sad that it’s come to this. The protests had been amazingly peaceful up to this point considering the number of people involved.
Clearly, it’s time for Mubarak to step down. The statements of world leaders are growing impatient. September is a long time away.