“And suddenly everything has changed. They [Islamists] are not looking for dialogue anymore. It is an open confrontation now,” says Azer.
A half hour later, with enough anti-Morsi protesters having arrived, the street battle begins.
Pavement is broken up into makeshift missiles, Molotov cocktails are thrown, and fireworks are fired horizontally at the other side. At one point, a protester runs through the anti-Morsi crowd shooting in the air with a handgun. The pro-Morsi crowd appears to be firing teargas canisters, something usually reserved for the police forces.
There is nothing uplifting about the mood here tonight, which seems eons away from the jubilant crowds in Tahrir on Feb. 11, 2011, the night Mubarak stepped down. Just before the fighting started, the crowd beat up a salafi passerby (a conservative Muslim), despite his protestations that he was “not with the Brotherhood.” A minivan stuck in traffic was attacked on the suspicion that it was carrying Muslim Brotherhood supporters.
If any comparisons are made with the uprising that brought down Mubarak last year, it is with the infamous “Camel Day,” when Mubarak supporters and police attacked the peaceful pro-democracy protestors in Tahrir Square.
It is mostly left unsaid that, on that day, many of the Muslim Brotherhood supporters now on the other side were fighting hand in hand with other protesters against a common enemy.
Two young protesters sitting on the trunk of a car look defeated as they struggle to explain how they feel about what is happening today.
“We don’t want you to frame this as Egyptians fighting Egyptians,” one of them says. “We are all Egyptians here.”