Two incongruous additions to a vigil held by thousands of supporters of Egypt’s deposed President Mohamed Mursi suggest the protesters don’t intend to move soon – at least not without a fight.
The first is a glittering strand of confetti over the road by the entrance to mark Wednesday’s start of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting which protesters intend to spend camping out by a mosque in northeastern Cairo.
The second is a new wall of bricks, giving an air of permanence to the makeshift defenses the protesters have put up – and which they redoubled after the army opened fire on another pro-Mursi protest this week, killing dozens, Reuters reports.
With summer temperatures rising, senior leaders of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood in jail and media sympathetic to the Islamist group shut down, authorities may be hoping the ousted president’s supporters will wear themselves out and go home.
They say they have no such intention and will stand their ground until Mursi is restored after the army overthrew him last week in what they call a coup against Egypt’s first freely elected leader.
“He’ll come back,” said Reda Ibrahim, a 43-year-old Mursi supporter who came from the Suez Canal city of Ismailia. “He’ll finish his term.”
That position is heard often at the protest but, from outside, it seems increasingly detached from reality.
As Ibrahim spoke, he stood by a poster showing the names of 650 people arrested after the violence on Monday outside the Republican Guard barracks, where Brotherhood supporters say the army opened fire at people peacefully conducting dawn prayers.
The military says gunmen attacked its troops in the area and they shot back in self-defense. Authorities have issued arrest warrants for more Brotherhood figures for inciting the violence.
The Brotherhood has struggled to make its version of the violence heard inside Egypt, as state and independent media largely stick to the army’s narrative. The isolation has made the pro-Mursi rally feel more and more like a separate planet.
Daytime energy there has been sapped with the start of Ramadan, when Muslims refrain from eating and drinking during daylight. Men lie in the shade of makeshift tents, reading the Koran or napping during the scorching afternoon hours.
A few vendors sell religious texts, rubber sandals and prayer beads as boys splash water on protesters’ necks and backs. Men pace around, some with wearing cards from their necks reading “Stand Fast.”
Pictures of Mursi are joined now by gory images of the aftermath of the “Republican Guard massacre,” as protesters call it. Everywhere, there is a sense of being under siege.
As Ibrahim, the man from Ismailia, talked, a crowd gathered, shouting and talking so fast a visiting journalist did not have time to record their names.
How could they be accused of firing on the army while they had been praying, they asked. Why did the government refuse to produce a video of the start of the violence?
“We reject military rule!” one man shouted.
A second interrupted: The protesters would succeed in bringing back Mursi just as mass demonstrations helped restore Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez after a botched 2002 coup attempt against him, he said.
Until that happened, he was not leaving.
“We either die or we get back our freedom,” he said. “There is no third option.”