Thousands of Egyptians demanded an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule and clashed with police yesterday in unprecedented protests inspired by the revolt that brought down Tunisia’s president.

“Down, down, Hosni Mubarak,” chanted protesters in Cairo, where police fired teargas and used water cannons as protesters hurled bottles and rocks.

In Alexandria, protesters tore down a picture of Mubarak, 82, and one of his son, Gamal, who many Egyptians believe is being groomed for office when his father stands down.

Egyptians have the same complaints that drove Tunisians onto the streets: surging food prices, poverty, unemployment and authoritarian rule that smothers public protests quickly and often brutally.

“Tunisia, Tunisia,” protesters shouted in demonstrations across the country that may have drawn 20,000 or more people in Cairo and several other cities. It was hard to estimate numbers because demonstrations sprang up in different places.

Egyptian protests usually draw only a few hundred people. The large numbers and the fact that protests in several cities were coordinated in a way not seen before gave yesterday’s events a force unprecedented since Mubarak took office in 1981.

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