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Suez Labor Strikes Augment Protests as Unrest Continues Across Egypt

February 9, 2011 at 6:49 PM EDT
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JIM LEHRER: And amid the diplomatic exchange today, the unrest in Egypt spread to more of Cairo and beyond. And there was word of more protesters being killed.

We have a report from Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News.

LINDSEY HILSUM: A new front in Egypt’s unfinished revolution.

This morning, we found protesters marching up and down the streets between the Parliament and the prime minister’s office. Others were still sleeping. They had spent the night on the pavement. The Parliament, they say, has no legitimacy anymore.

The protesters have now blocked off the street to Parliament and the Cabinet office. There aren’t very many of them, although they’re very noisy. But it’s significant, because this means that the protests have gone beyond Tahrir Square. This is the heart of government. It’s a new challenge to the authorities.

Mohamed al-Natbi planted himself in front of the gate. His wife and three children have come with him from an industrial town 100 miles away.

MOHAMED AL-NATBI (through translator): Last night, I decided to come here because I heard that changes in the constitution will be decided here in the people’s assembly. But we don’t accept the legality of this place anymore. When we have a revolution, the constitution no longer applies.

LINDSEY HILSUM: “Long live the Egyptian army,” they shouted, as a general and his officers were mobbed as they pushed their way through the crowd. It will be hard for the government to get the army to move against the protesters now, even as unrest spreads across the country.

Amateur video has emerged from the desert outpost of El Kharga. On Monday, people set the police chief’s car on fire because, they say, he tortured prisoners. They marched on the police station and were met with tear gas and live fire.

MAN (through translator): The police opened fire. One got a bullet in his chest, another in his side. And Hassan, Hassan got a bullet between the eyes.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Hospital pictures bear out his story. The government has said that four have now died and about 100 been injured.

In Port Said, protesters gathered outside the governor’s office to complain about housing conditions. He refused to see them, so they occupied the building and then set it on fire.

Suez Canal workers were on strike for a second day, protesting about working conditions and low pay and demanding that the canal chief step down. Other industrial workers in Suez joined them. Ships are still passing through the canal unaffected, but the protests are costing the Egyptian government an estimated 200 million pounds a day in lost revenue.

Late this afternoon, more had gathered at the Parliament. Vice President Omar Suleiman has warned that if this civil disobedience doesn’t stop, there will be a coup in Egypt. But the protesters were readying themselves for another night sleeping on the pavement. And they’re talking of multiple demonstrations on Friday.