Some Egyptians are jokingly calling it a Tunisami. The wave of popular protest sweeping the Arab world certainly draws inspiration from Tunisia. As yet, none of the youthful movements clamouring for political freedom and economic relief in such strongman states as Algeria, Jordan, Libya, Sudan and Yemen has come close to reaching the dictator-toppling momentum of their Tunisian counterpart. But for one day at least, Egypt, the most populous and influential Arab country, did look as if it had been hit by a Tunisia-tinted political tidal wave.
A loose coalition of more than a dozen small parties and activist groups had issued a Facebook call for a “day of rage” to coincide with Police Day on January 25th, recently declared a national holiday. Some 80,000 Egyptian web-surfers signed up, pledging to march on the streets to voice demands for reform. Their enthusiasm reflected Tunisia's influence but was also built on a rising tide of local alienation from the government. Yet few expected that number to turn up, and fewer expected Egypt's harsh, experienced and effective riot police to let them get very far.