Le­banon ac­tivists post­pone garbage protest

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY ZEINA KARAM

Or­ga­niz­ers of the “You stink” protests that have cap­ti­vated the Le­banese cap­i­tal post­poned antigov­ern­ment demon­stra­tions set for Mon­day evening af­ter a night of vi­o­lent clashes with po­lice dur­ing which dozens of protesters and po­lice of­fi­cers were wounded.

The Le­banese army took up po­si­tions in and around down­town Beirut, sta­tion­ing ar­mored per­son­nel car­ri­ers on street corners. An­tic­i­pat­ing more protests, author­i­ties be­gan in­stalling blast walls near the main Le­banese gov­ern­ment build­ing, site of the largest protests.

The demon­stra­tions, sparked by a garbage-col­lec­tion cri­sis that has left trash piled in the streets for weeks, have grown into a grass­roots move­ment de­mand­ing the res­ig­na­tion of the en­tire gov­ern­ment and an end to the coun­try’s dys­func­tional sec­tar­ian sys­tem.

What started last week as peace­ful protests by thou­sands of peo­ple turned vi­o­lent over the week­end af­ter a small group of young men re­peat­edly tried to tear down a barbed wire fence sep­a­rat­ing the crowds from the gov­ern­ment build­ing, which houses the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice and the Cab­i­net.

On Satur­day and Sun­day night, po­lice fired tear gas and wa­ter can­nons at the protesters, bat­tling them in the streets of Beirut in clashes that saw both sides hurl­ing rocks and plas­tic bot­tles at each other.

Spo­radic gun­fire could be heard in the cap­i­tal’s com­mer­cial dis­trict into the night Sun­day as po­lice fired in the air to dis­perse those who re­mained. A few protesters later set tires ablaze in Mar­tyrs’ Square, with some even pulling down trees, smash­ing win­dows and traf­fic lights.

Work­ers were seen sweep­ing glass and other ob­jects that were set on fire from the streets Mon­day.

“We ar­rived in the morn­ing, found ev­ery­thing bro­ken, chairs on the floor, ev­ery­thing is a mess,” said Joseph Khoury, who works at a car rental agency in down­town. The agency’s glass win­dow was smashed.

The or­ga­niz­ers of the protest say they have been in­fil­trated by po­lit­i­cal el­e­ments and thugs to dis­credit their peace­ful move­ment. They an­nounced the can­cel­la­tion of protests planned for Mon­day evening on their You Stink move­ment’s Face­book page, say­ing they would hold a news con­fer­ence later in the day to ex­plain their de­ci­sion.

“Those who did this do not rep­re­sent the Le­banese peo­ple,” said Salah Noured­dine, a Le­banese who lives in Canada and was one of a hand­ful of peo­ple protest­ing in down­town Mon­day.

The demon­stra­tions, the largest in years to shake tiny Le­banon, seek to up­end what protesters see as a cor­rupt and dys­func­tional po­lit­i­cal sys­tem with an in­ef­fec­tive Cab­i­net and par­lia­ment. Due to chronic in­fight­ing, Le­banon has been with­out a pres­i­dent for more than a year. As­so­ci­ated Press writer Sarah elDeeb con­trib­uted to this re­port.

AP

A Le­banese anti-gov­ern­ment pro­tester kicks a tear gas can­is­ter dur­ing a protest against an on­go­ing trash cri­sis, in down­town Beirut, Le­banon, late Sun­day, Aug. 23.

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