Saturday, August 29, 2015 7:32 pm
Tens of thousands of protesters from across Lebanon flocked to a mass rally Saturday in downtown Beirut against a political class accused of corruption and failing to provide basic services.
The protest, which began at 6:00 pm (1500 GMT), followed demonstrations last weekend that descended into violence as some protesters clashed with police.
“Today, we’re expecting more than 50,000 protesters,” said Assaad Thebian of the “You Stink” organising campaign, which has stressed the non-partisan nature of the show of contempt for Lebanon’s leaders.
Correspondents gave an initial estimate of tens of thousands of people, including entire families, taking part.
“This is not a protest for political parties. It is for all the Lebanese people… We are against the parties that are exploiting citizens,” said fellow organiser Lucien Bourjeily.
“These protests have given us hope. We were here last weekend, but today is much bigger,” said Patrick Manolli, a young man, alongside his beaming wife carrying a huge Lebanese flag.
“We are here to protest because the country has all become garbage,” said Tamer, a young boy aloft on a relative’s shoulders.
In the absence of political party flags which normally dominate such events in Lebanon, the crowd carried banners bearing blunt messages.
“Ali Baba and the 128 thieves,” read one, referring to parliament speaker Nabih Berri and the 128-member house.
“Sometimes doing nothing is the most violent thing to do,” read another.
“May the power of the corrupt fall, starting with the MPs,” and “You stink, bye bye to the corrupt,” the crowd chanted.
Lebanon’s multiple television channels, of all political persuasions, ran in-depth coverage of what was the country’s largest ever gathering organised by civil society.
The “You Stink” campaign began in response to a trash crisis that started with the closure of Lebanon’s largest landfill in mid-July, resulting in garbage piling up on the streets of Beirut and beyond.
Lebanon’s parliament has twice extended its mandate since 2009, and has been unable to elect a president since May 2014. Political deadlock has also paralysed the cabinet.
The country suffers chronic electricity and water shortages, further strained by the influx of more than one million Syrian refugees.
*Reported by AFP