Twitter blocked

Activists had called for a “day of revolt” in a web message. Protests are uncommon in Egypt, which President Hosni Mubarak has ruled since 1981, tolerating little dissent.

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At the scene

image of Jon Leyne Jon Leyne BBC News, Cairo

The demonstrations in Egypt were clearly inspired by what happened in Tunisia. They were bigger than anything seen here for a number of years.

What was also most striking was the boldness and anger of the protesters. Even when the police moved in with water cannon and tear gas, they stood their ground.

The police, by contrast, appeared wrong-footed. They are unused to confronting crowds as big and determined as this.

On its own, this is not going to threaten President Mubarak’s hold on power. But it must be a huge shock to him. And the protesters might just begin to think that anything is possible.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said her administration supported “the fundamental right of expression and assembly” and urged all parties “to exercise restraint”.

She added that Washington believed the Egyptian government was “stable” and “looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people”.

The events in Cairo were co-ordinated on a Facebook page – tens of thousands of supporters clicked on the page to say they would take part.

The microblogging website, Twitter, has confirmed that its website has been blocked in Egypt.

Twitter said it believed the open exchange of information and views was a benefit to societies and helped government better connect with their people.