Lebanon News

Lebanese head to streets for fifth day

People carry a giant Lebanese flag as they protest in Downtown Beirut, Oct. 20, 2019. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT/ALEY/SIDON: Lebanese protesters headed to the streets for a fifth day Monday as Cabinet convened at Baabda Palace and agreed to reforms.

The protest comes as a 72-hour deadline, set by Prime Minister Saad Hariri for politicians to agree on a solution to the current crisis, nears its 7 p.m. end. The Cabinet meeting was called to discuss Hariri's reform blueprint.

As the country waited to see how political events would develop, an army of volunteers deployed to clean up the streets of Beirut early Monday morning, as protesters began a fifth day of demonstrations against the ruling elite.

Already by 9 a.m., protesters began to trickle into Beirut’s Riad al-Solh and Martyrs' squares, the epicenters of the last four days’ protest, holding up anti-government banners and waving the Lebanese flag.

“Don’t stay home, come down!” a protester shouted in Martyrs’ Square.

“It was difficult for us to get here, but we eventually made it,” another said.

There were reports of tension among some protesters over differences in opinions as to which politicians should be called out during the demonstrations.

Protesters also cut off the highway leading from and to Ashrafieh, also known as the “Ring Bridge,” refusing to open it despite police attempts to make them do so.

Roads were blocked Monday morning by burning tires, garbage cans and material from construction sites in Downtown Beirut, Zouk Mosbeh and the Bekaa Valley, among other areas.

The road was also blocked at the main entrance of the Mount Lebanon city of Aley, where protesters began to gather just after 11 a.m.

A banner read: “Road is closed for the country’s maintenance.”

The main Beirut-Damascus road was blocked at several points, but protesters said they were facilitating the movement of those who needed to pass through.

Moving toward Hazmieh, beefed up security measures were apparent, with several roads leading to Baabda cut off with barbed wire fencing.

A brief dispute broke out between protesters and Lebanese Army soldiers deployed in the Chevrolet area, at the intersection leading to Furn al-Shubbak and Hazmieh, after the Army tried to open the road.

“We don’t want reforms on a piece of paper, and we don’t want any of these [politicians],” a protester in the area said.

“People have a main demand: People want to live!” another protester said.

In Sidon, units from the Lebanese Army deployed in an attempt to reopen the southern port town’s main thoroughfares to traffic. However, main roads remained blocked, forcing drivers to divert their routes.

Sixty-four people have been injured in protests in Sidon over the past four days, according to a statement from the Islamic Medical Association, released Monday and carried by the National News Agency.

Banks, schools and universities remained closed Monday, and many other businesses used their social media platforms to announce their participation in a “general strike,” in order to encourage their customers to join the protest.

On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese took to the streets across the country in what was a celebratory day of protests, with DJ stands being set up, people doing the traditional dabke dance and setting off fireworks.

Many of those protesters remained in position Monday morning, having camped overnight. They were joined by an ever-growing stream of new faces as the morning went on.

Volunteers, clad in rubber gloves and medical masks, met at 8 a.m. in Beirut to collect garbage that filled cans to overflowing and been dropped all over roads, sidewalks and squares.

They tied green plastic trash bags to trees and lampposts to encourage protesters to dispose of their waste properly.

 

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