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In Cairo, shooting, anger, and bracing for more confrontation

In Cairo, those protesting against President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were faced down by his loyalists. A view from the ground.

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Egyptian riot police stand guard during clashes between supporters and opponents of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi outside the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Dec. 5.

Mostafa Elshemy/AP

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Sherif Azer, one of the original Tahrir Square activists who helped sweep Hosni Mubarak from power in February 2011, is matter-of-fact, as if what is happening today in Cairo was somehow inevitable.

“We’re just waiting until enough people are here," he says. "Then we will attack. It has to be this way.”

Mr. Azer is among several hundred people gathered a block away from the presidential palace. Hours earlier, Muslim Brotherhood supporters, armed with clubs, attacked a sit-in outside the palace that started the day before at the end of a huge protest march against President Mohamed Morsi, himself a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“The Muslim Brotherhood have been incredibly stupid,” says Azer. “Nobody was fighting them, nobody was questioning their legitimacy.”

Then, on Nov. 22, President Morsi issued a decree, sidelining the judicial system, and rushed through a controversial draft constitution, tapping the majority of Islamists in the constituent assembly.

“And suddenly everything has changed. They [Islamists] are not looking for dialogue anymore. It is an open confrontation now,” says Azer.

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