Socialist Worker

Mass demonstrations in Beirut against the regime

by Elia el Khazen in Beirut, Lebanon
Issue No. 2468

Protesters in Beirut

Protesters in Beirut (Pic: Elia el Khazen)


Up to 10,000 people demonstrated on the streets of Beirut, Lebanon last Saturday.

The Arab uprisings of 2011 have left their mark on the Lebanese people. Strong movements have organised several protests calling for the downfall of the sectarian regime. Unfortunately these were eventually co-opted by reactionary parties. 

But this week has seen the beating pulse of demonstrators returned to the streets with protests called “You Stink”.

They have been sparked by a waste management crisis. Piles of rubbish have grown on the streets since the authorities had no alternative arranged when a major 

landfill site closed in July. 

The ruling class is also trying to split the privatised rubbish 

collection cake on sectarian and geographic lines.

The level of repression in downtown Beirut in recent days has been unmatched in its brutality and repressive nature. 

A large section of the city has been privatised and gentrified under successive governments. 

This has exposed the true face of the regime with its countless scandals. Lebanon’s streets have been filled with rotting rubbish sporadically relocated to poorer areas to momentarily alleviate tensions in Beirut.

Repression

Protesters experienced repression from both the army and the police first hand. These watchdogs attempted to outdo each other as they tried to push protesters away from the main roads that feed into Beirut’s main squares. 

The army shot live bullets in the air and aimed teargas canisters and water cannons frantically at protesters. 

Police attacked the protesters with batons, maiming several people and sending more than 

75 bystanders to nearby hospitals. 

Protesters stood their ground and camped out in the streets to remobilise the next day.

They sprayed walls of the once enclosed luxurious and exclusionary downtown area with slogans such as “Down with capitalism” and “Downtown Beirut belongs to the people” and “Revolution”.

The next day protesters were defiant, and came in larger numbers—up to 20,000. 

Many people who once felt alienated by the movement were being attracted by the struggle. 

But the organisers committed the mistake of labelling many newcomers, mainly working class teenagers from the suburbs of Beirut, as “saboteurs” and “rioters”. This was because they “looked different” from the otherwise middle class activists they were expecting. 

Mistakes

In their confusion, the organisers also committed another mistake. They collaborated with the same security forces that had opened fire on protesters 24 hours before asking them to remove the “unwanted” newcomers.

The parliamentary guard moved in and beat protesters, fired at them and evacuated the square.

One protester, Mohamad Kassir, was shot in the head and is currently fighting for his life in intensive care. In all 402 people were hospitalised. 

The momentum has not gone and people have been gathering in solidarity with Mohamad back in the square.  

We will reorganise our ranks and reclaim the streets, and build on the momentum of 22 August protest. 

We must continue the popular movement and instigate the formation of popular committees everywhere. 

We must start down the  road towards overthrowing the entire sectarian regime, and the establishment of a secular society and state.

Call for the dissolution of the parliament, early elections on the basis of non-sectarian proportional representation, with Lebanon as one jurisdiction. 

These are the demands that need to be achieved

Elia is a member of the Socialist Forum in Lebanon.

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Article information

International
Tue 25 Aug 2015, 17:09 BST
Issue No. 2468
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