This past weekend in Cairo was charged, to say the least. Charges against former dictator Hosni Mubarak, for conspiring to kill protesters during the 2011 revolution, were dismissed on Saturday. Later that same day, protests erupted in opposition to the verdict of the trial, which ended in an aggressive dispersal. This came on the heels of an anticipated large Islamist demonstration on Friday.

A week ago the Salafi Front, an Islamist group, called for massive demonstrations for Nov. 28, which had been dubbed the Islamist Revolution. Authorities intensified security throughout the city, stating they were bracing for ”some terrorist organizations to commit acts of violence and sabotage.” Helicopters flew overhead, military tanks sealed off Tahrir Square, and people were warned to stay home. Many did, fearing a repeat of the Raba’a dispersal, which left at least 817 pro-Morsi demonstrators dead in August 2013. Islamists themselves were divided as to whether to participate in Friday’s protest, with different factions questioning the merit of demonstrating in the name of “religious identity” and the political outcome it would have. While the Muslim Brotherhood publicly threw its support behind the Salafi Front, other Islamic parties condemned the protests as a strategic disaster.

The Ministry of Interior had released a statement days ahead of the expected demonstration, saying that the military would use “a direct and firm response” to any movements that would harm civilians or national security. The turnout for Friday was underwhelming, with pockets of a few hundred demonstrators gathering in three neighbourhoods in the city. But the day ended with three protesters, two senior military officers, and a police conscript killed.

The uptick in security and the state’s reiteration of intolerance for any Islamist demonstrations served as a precursor for the result of the protests that erupted the following evening.

Saturday morning, on the basis of a technicality, Judge Mahmoud Kamel al-Rashidi dismissed charges against Mubarak for the killing of protesters during the January 2011 demonstrations. Originally, Mubarak’s minister of interior and six other senior officials had been indicted for ordering the killing of over 800 protesters. The prosecutor added Mubarak as a co-defendant in the case two months after. According to Judge al-Rashidi, the intermission between indictments was “an implied decision that there were no grounds for criminal proceedings.”

Let’s compare the judge’s verdict with court rulings from earlier this year, and contrast the sentencing of Mubarak to that faced by those affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

In March, 683 Muslim Brotherhood members were sentenced to death, charged with the killing of one police officer, in a single day. In June’s al-Jazeera trial, a judge handed out sentences of seven to ten years’ imprisonment to three journalists for “conspiring with terrorists” and “harming national interests.” Last week alone, 78 minors received sentences for two to five years’ imprisonment for participating in protests calling for the fall of the regime and the reinstatement of Mohamed Morsi as president.

Despite the insistence of the judiciary’s independence, there are glaring gaps in its autonomy. Although the judiciary distances itself from the executive branch of the government, it is largely recognized as a conservative body that is loyal to the deep state. A number of other factors also ail the body, giving way to a politicized judiciary that largely plays into reinforcing the authoritarianism rife in Egypt’s other major institutions.

As Mubarak’s trial was adjourned, many in the courtroom began cheering and applauding. Others saw the verdict as an affront to justice, wondering who was responsible for the deaths of the demonstrators if Mubarak wasn’t.

In the afternoon, with Tahrir Square still shuttered off by tanks and security personnel from the previous day, demonstrators began to trickle into Abdel Moneim al-Riyadh, a crossroad parallel to Tahrir and immediately behind the Egyptian museum. The crossroad is carved up with shoulder-height steel barriers and surrounded by high-traffic streets. By dusk, the crowd had grown to between 1,000 and 2,000 people, with protesters shouting chants against Mubarak and the military, briefly reminiscent of the revolution of 2011.

Soon after, a small group of Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators joined the scene. A debate arose among the crowd as to whether to integrate the Muslim Brotherhood into the protest or kick them out.

People feared a more imminent confrontation with the police if they united with the Islamists. Last December, Egypt’s interim government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, criminalizing all activities, finances, and membership in the group. Additionally, there are political motivations in avoiding collaboration with Muslim Brotherhood protesters from the side of the pro-25 January revolutionaries. After briefly joining forces during 2011, there was a deterioration in the relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and the pro-January 25, when the latter began to protest in opposition to Morsi once he took power. Ever since, suspicions continue to run high between the two factions.

The debate within the demonstration quickly dissipated, as security forces began violently dispersing the crowd with water canons and teargas, followed swiftly by rubber bullets and bird shots, with live ammunition alleged to have been fired as well. The crowd was cleared in a matter of minutes.

With oncoming traffic hemming in the area, the Tahrir tanks closing off another exit, and dissecting barriers in the way, Abdel Moneim al-Riyadh became a trap of utter confusion as people tried to leave. Moreover, police stationed on streets surrounding the area began rounding up and arresting anyone up to half a kilometre away believed to have participated in the protest. There were two confirmed deaths and over 85 arrests.

In line with expectations, the police later justified the dispersal by stating that the demonstration had been taken over by Islamists. Along with the rise in security for Friday’s protests and its reasoning behind Saturday’s dispersal, the state continues to justify its use of force under the banner of its “war on terrorism” and through its use of Islamists as scapegoats to suppress any and all dissent from every point on the political spectrum. The debate that emerged within Saturday’s protest illustrates that the state’s build-up of the Islamist threat, and the assurance that they will be quelled, reinforces the divide between political players.

Mubarak’s verdict and the reaction of the current regime’s continued crackdown on protesters reveals the reassertion of the country’s police state and the state’s reaffirmation of overarching control. Despite the fact that that many remain intolerant to the regime’s return, there is little space left to voice dissent.

The regime has managed to push a fear of not only being affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, but also indicating any signs of opposition. Given the Raba’a dispersal in 2013, and the scores of arrests that have resulted due to the implementation of the protest law, large demonstrations have effectively dissolved, with those formerly involved in frequent protests now heeding caution. Moreover, the combined effects of exhaustion and of political polarization has meant that it is increasingly difficult for a solid opposition to coalesce against the near seamless restoration of an authoritarian regime in the country.

The accountability and justice that participants of the 2011 revolution strove for has mostly been swept away by the state. In response to Mubarak’s verdict, Egypt’s current president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, said that he accepted the outcome of the trial and emphasized the importance of “full confidence in the fairness, integrity, impartiality, and competence of Egypt’s judges.” The president’s statement said that the “new Egypt, which emerged from the 25th and June 30th revolutions, is on a path to a modern democratic state, based on justice, freedom, and equality, and a renunciation of corruption.” He added that Egypt “is on an aspirational path to the future and can never go back to the past” — as if to suggest that there is a striking difference between then and now.