Clashes erupt between protesters and police in Egypt's Tahrir Square (VIDEO)



Egyptian protesters throw stones during clashes with riot police at Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square on November 19, 2011, as Egyptian police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to break up a sit-in among whose organisers were people injured during the Arab Spring which overthrew veteran president Hosni Mubarak.


Khaled Desouki

Violence broke out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square Saturday when a large number of police fought protesters, injuring more than 600 and killing two, reported The Guardian.

Reports on the size of the clashes vary. Al Jazeera reported the number of police were in the thousands, while GlobalPost Cairo correspondent  Jon Jensen said the number amounted to hundreds. The brawl underscores Egypt’s tumultuous political journey to establish a democratic government.

More from GlobalPost: Egyptian security clash with protesters in Tahrir Square

The violence between police and protesters come just over a week before the country’s first elections since former President Hosni Mubarak was driven out of his 30-year hold over Egypt.

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Cairo and Alexandria just a day before the clashes to demand that the military – which helped the opposition despose Mubarak from power in February– now needs to hand over power to Egyptian citizens.

The rally escalated to violence when riot police dismantled a small tent camp used to honor protesters that were killed, according to Al Jazeera. Jensen said police authorities blame protesters for instigating the violence.

More from GlobalPost: Tahrir Square clashes (live coverage)

Jensen reported: “Police forces, armed with shields and wooden batons, fired shotguns with rubber pellets in the direction of the demonstration. The crowd of young protesters returned fire with rocks and molotov cocktails, and eventually torched a large security vehicle they had commandeered earlier in the day.”

Violence is intensifying in Tahrir Square, as correspodnent Erin Cunningham reported live on the streets via Twitter:  '

I just saw a man with half of his face shot off, brains coming out. Friends were carting him out of #tahrir. This is going to be ugly."

RIghts activists has reportely criticized the police for using excessive force. "It's a crime," Ghada Shahbandar, a member of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, told the Associated Press.  "They were shooting rubber bullets directly at the heads. ... I heard an officer ordering his soldiers to aim for the head."

Egypt’s police force and military are seen as different institutions. The police are generally viewed as an arm of Mubarak’s regime while the military is seen as an ally of the democratic movement. 

However, that view has been shifting amid concerns that the military is becoming reluctant to release its authority.

The military was reportedly not present during the police scuffle with protesters.

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Follow our correspondents on Twitter via @jonjensen and @ErinMCunningham for live reports on Tahrir Square clashes, or read their coverage highlights below.

View the story "Live from Tahrir Square" on Storify]