The march, reminiscent of protests that forced President Hosni Mubarak to step down on February 11, followed a warning by the military council that it would use all legitimate means to end a five-day-old protest in the city’s Tahrir Square.
“Down, down with military rule,” demonstrators chanted as they went from Tahrir Square towards the prime minister’s office, where they demonstrated before returning to the square.
“The people want the removal of the Field Marshal,” they shouted, referring to Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the military council leader who served as Mubarak’s defence minister for two decades.
The protest that began on Friday has increasingly targeted the generals running the country and is one of the longest since it took over from Mubarak following mass protests against rising prices, poverty, unemployment and years of authoritarian rule.
The protest and the possibility that the crisis could deepen have hit the Egyptian stock market, where the benchmark index closed down almost 3 percent at an eight-week low.
The protesters are angry about foot-dragging in trying Mubarak, who ruled the country of 80 million people for three decades, and officials charged with corruption and killing protesters. They also want swifter reforms.
Other protests have been taking place in the port cities of Alexandria and Suez, where some people gathered outside a Suez Canal administration building. An official said the canal was operating normally.
MILITARY COUNCIL WARNING
Mubarak, who is at a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, is due to go on trial over the death of more than 840 protesters in the uprising on August 3.
Prime Minister Essam Sharaf has been trying to appease the protesters by promising a cabinet reshuffle and ordering other changes in the Interior Ministry, but the demonstrators have rejected the proposals.
The military council said the protests were threatening public order and the country’s security.
“The armed forces feels its historic responsibility and role towards the nation and calls on honourable citizens to stand against any protests that prevent the return of normal life,” said a statement read by General Mohsen Fangary, a member of the military council.
The army has promised a parliamentary election in September with a presidential vote to follow.
Former Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, a presidential hopeful, said the protesters have legitimate demands.
“There is a gap between the revolution and the swiftness it was demanding and (there is a) delay on the other hand which creates a gap and leads to questioning whether the revolution took place and whether there was a radical change in the country or not,” he told Al Jazeera television in an interview.
Protesters in Tahrir Square have blocked traffic and stopped employees entering a government administrative building on the edge of the square. Many rejected the army statement. Reuters