More than 200,000 people flooded into the heart of Cairo Tuesday, filling the city's main square as a call for a million protesters was answered by the largest demonstration in a week of unceasing demands for President Hosni Mubarak to leave after nearly 30 years in power.
Protesters streamed into Tahrir, or Liberation, Square, among them people defying a government transportation shutdown to make their way from rural provinces in the Nile Delta. The peaceful crowd was jammed in shoulder to shoulder - schoolteachers, farmers, unemployed university graduates, women in conservative headscarves and women in high heels, men in suits and working-class men in scuffed shoes.
They sang nationalist songs and chanted the anti-Mubarak "Leave! Leave! Leave!" as military helicopters buzzed overhead. Organizers said the aim was to intensify marches to get the president out of power by Friday, and similar demonstrations erupted in at least five other cities around Egypt.
Soldiers at checkpoints set up the entrances of the square did nothing to stop the crowds from entering.
The military promised on state TV Monday night that it would not fire on protesters, a sign that army support for Mubarak may be unraveling as momentum builds for an extraordinary eruption of discontent and demands for democracy in the United States' most important Arab ally.