Updated at 4:15pm (Beirut Time) on 2 July 2013
Activists Hold Follow-Up Protest at Ministry of Justice
What began as a typical display of thuggary on the part of an MP convoy has evolved into a broader mobilization against the nexus of corruption between political elites, party militias, and the legal system in Lebanon. It all began with a Lebanese MP convoy`s attack on the Nasawiya Café on Friday 28 June 2013. The following day, on Saturday 29 June, while members of both parties (i.e., those attacked and those that did the attacking) were giving their official statements at the local police station, a judge ordered the detention of five of the café attendees and the release of the attackers. That day, activists and allies mobilized a protest outside of the police station. Through sheer will and obstinacy, and at great risk to their safety, the protesters ultimately prevented the fleeing of the lead attacker and secured the release of their five compatriots (see the complete account with images and photos below). On Monday 1 July 2013, those very same activists and their allies assembled in front of the Justice Palace (where the various judges and courts sit), held a brief rally, marched to the Ministry of Justice, and closed with another rally. During that time, the protestors demanded accountability for the thuggish acts of Nadim Jumayyil’s convoy, and to protest the corruption that undergirded the complicity and collusion of the darak and the judiciary in their refusal to bring the attackers to justice. What follows are some images from the protest, as well as video footage highlighting legal advocate Nizar Saghieh’s comments during the protest, as well as some of the chants that bracketed those comments.
[Protesters in front of the Palace of Justice. Sign on the left reads "Speak the truth no matter how hard it may be." Sign on the right reads "An independent judiciary, an exploitative judge . . . there is a difference. Photo by Beirut Walls.]
["Wanted for justice." Images in poster show the lead attacker/driver from the 28 and 29 June events as he holds a gun to one of the protesters when his attempt to feel the neighborhood of the police station failed." Photo by Beirut Walls.]
[Rally in front of the Palace of Justice. Orange sign reads "Mr. Imad Mousa: I wore a dress for you. Does my voice sound different now?" This sign is a direct response to Imad Mousa`s article in NOW Lebanon, wherein he questioned the femininity of the protesters of 29 June 2013 as if to claim that made their demands any less valid. Photo by Jadaliyya affiliate]
[Protesters begin arriving in front of the Ministry of Justice after their rally outside the Palace of Justice. Photo by Jadaliyya affiliate]
[Protesters rally outside Ministry of Justice. Photo by Beirut Walls]
[If, as they say, "prison is for men," then congratulations on your masculinity. Money freed you. With out words, we took our freedom. Photo by Jadaliya affiliate]
[A collection of signs hung up and left on the gates of the Ministry of Justice as the protest ended. Bottom left sign reads "He struck me, and cried. He beat me, and complained." Sign on bottom right reads "Wanted for justice," and shows the image of another member of the MP convoy that was involved in the attack on Nasawiya Cafe on Friday 28 June. Yellow sign on the top reads: "Are you a good brown noser? Are the sayings of political bosses above all else? Do you have a soft spot for militias? Do you make a hobby of trying to discipline people that affirm their right? Then do not work as a judge!]
["Did your maman ["mother" in French] not tell you that it is rude to lie?"]
Video of Legal Advocate Nizar Saghieh`s Address to Protesters in Front of Palace of Justice on 1 July
Nizar Saghieh Nasawiya Protest from Jadaliyya on Vimeo.
Video of Chants during the 1 July Protest
Chanting at Naswiyya Protest from Jadaliyya on Vimeo.
[The following is the combination of an eye-witness account by Jadaliyya affiliate and interviews s/he conducted with affected persons of the thuggish and violent behavior of a Lebanese MP convoy, the complicity of various Lebanese state institutions, and the resilience of everday citizens and activists in the face of it all. The Jadaliyya affiliate and those s/he interviewed have chosen to remain anonymous. Scroll to the bottom of the post to view a compilation video of documentary footage of the events in question]
Background: Nadim Jumayyil MP Convoy Attacks Cafe
On the evening of Friday 28 June 2013, a private gathering was being held at Nasawiya Café—a progressive activist and community organizing space in the Mar Mkhail neighborhood of East Beirut. At around eleven o’clock in the evening, an unidentified man entered the café and shouted: “No photography! Do not take pictures.” When asked to identify himself, he simply described himself as a murafiq (literally, “escort,” but in reality an armed guard) of a minister of parliament (MP). Apparently, the flashing cameras inside the Nasawiya Café—that were part of the private gathering itself—were confused for attempts at photographing the MP’s convoy. Indeed, the convoy had stopped upon noticing the flashes. This particular individual that had entered the café did so apparently to ensure that the picture taking would stop. It is of note that this person never paused to inquire whether there was indeed any real picture taking of the convoy, nor did he pause to justify why he felt he had the right to stop anyone from taking pictures of cars that were driving through a public street. In fact, there were three cars, with two men in each of them, including the man that had entered the café.
Once the man identified himself as part of an MP convoy, the less-than-twenty-person crowd in the café began to chant: “Out, out, out—MP get out!” Eventually, the man backed out of the café and the crowd followed him out continuing to chant “Out, out, out—MP get out!” It was at this point that the man reached for a semi-automatic weapon he had in his car, loaed it, and aimed it at the crowd from the café. One of the café attendees challenged the man, asking him, “What do you want to do? Do you want to shoot us?” The man with the machinegun responded to the effect of: “Who said I do not have orders to kill you? Do not think I will not do it.” Sensing things were about to get much more violent, one of the café attendees ran back inside to call the darak (gendarmerie, which serve as the police force in Lebanon). Around the same time, another member of the MP convoy picked up a broom that was on the floor outside, and struck the head of one of the café attendees. What followed was an all out assault on the café attendees.
Upon arrival, the darak proceeded to separate the men of the MP convoy from the café attendees. As part of this intervention, the darak forced the attendees back into the café, and proceeded to trap them inside for approximately two hours. All the while, as could be seen from the glass doors of the café, the darak did nothing to identify, interrogate, or detain the attackers. In fact, they simply let them go. By the time the cafe attendees were allowed out, the attackers had been let go, and the darak had taken the names of seven of the café attendees. These seven individuals—two women and five men—were expected to show up to the darak station the following day to give official statements.
The café attendees later found out that the MP convoy was that of Nadim Jumayyil, who was allegedly having dinner at a local restaurant. Jumayyil was elected to the Lebanese parliament in 2009, and is the son of the Phalange (Kata’ib) Party’s infamous Bashir Jumayyil. Not to be embarrassed by the thuggish behavior of his convoy, Jumayyil was called by his affiliated MTV television station’s new program later that night amidst “rumors” that his convoy had been attacked. During the call, Jumayyil claimed that fifty people had attacked his convoy with sticks, stones, and bottles. In addition, he claimed that two of his convoy’s cars had been damaged, and that one of his men injured and consequently in the hospital. However, the video and photographic evidence from the night prove otherwise, as does the fact that the darak made no mention of such damage or injuries neither in their conversations with café attendees that night nor during the interactions with the seven individuals who went in to give formal statements the following day.
The following day, on Saturday 29 June, the seven café attendees—whose names were taken by the darak—went into the Gemmeyzeh Darak Station (on Gouraud Street) to give their official statements. As support for their act, Nasawiya had issued a statement the night before as a response to Jumayil’s media appearance and blatantly false accusations. The statement explained what had happened, and called for a protest in front of the darak station. The seven individuals spent the better part of the day at the station giving their official statements, while the solidarity protest was held across the street from the station.
However, what had initially began as a civilian process regarding the attack, eventually turned into a military proceeding defending the attackers. The lead man in the assault on the café had come into the station to give his official statement, claiming that the café attendees attacked him and another man. One of these two men is apparently a member of Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), or so it was claimed, which immediately changed the status of the case from a civilian one to a military one. It was as part of this change of status that a military court judge ordered the darak to detain five of the seven (i.e., all the men) whose names had been taken after the assault on the café. Despite resisting, the two women were forced out of the station. At this point, the activists mobilized their networks outside and across the street from the darak station. With signs drawn, megaphone in hand, and their numbers growing, the protesters chanted against the detention of the five activists and the corruption that lay at the heart of it.
[Protestors across the street from the Gemmeyzeh Darak Station. From left to right, signs read: "The armed [thug] fled, and the activist was detained"; "Those who call for `no arms outisde the state` raised arms against us"; and "Oh judge, leave the assult on people`s liberties to the political bosses."]
At approximately 5:20 p.m., as the protest was ongoing, one of Jumayyil’s convoy men—the lead man in the assault on the café, who had loaded and pointed a semi-automatic weapon that night at the café attendees—was seen leaving the darak station. Angered at the hypocrisy and corruption that was epitomized by the detention of some of those attacked and the release of one of the attackers, some of the protesters identified the attacker out loud and proceeded to surround his car to prevent him from leaving the area. It was at this point that all the protesters converged to surround the vehicle, while a subset of them created an immediate sit-in in front of the vehicle. The attacker/driver honked his horn furiously, while attempting to inch his car forward to clear the road. When the activists blocking the street refused to move, the attacker/driver proceeded to run them over with his car. However, he stopped short of completely driving over their bodies and proceeded to reverse in an attempt to flee the scene. This did not prevent one of the protesters he ran over from being seriously injured and requiring medical attention. He eventually turned off the main street and proceeded about a block down before getting out of his car and pulling a gun on one of the protestors that had followed him.
[Photo showing the attacker/driver holding a gun to one of the protesters after he attempted to flee the scene of his hit-and-run.]
At this point, the protesters were divided into two groups. The first remained in front of the darak station, among them those that were injured by the hit-and-run of the attacker/driver. The second group was around the car of the attacker/driver who had since returned his gun to the car and was now accompanied by a man wearing State Security fatigues. This latter man was carrying a semi-automatic weapon and mediating between the attacker/driver and both the protesters and the few darak personnel that had followed the car as it reversed.
[Photo showing attacker/driver returning to his car after pulling a gun on one of the protesters. The man behind him
(in fatigues and carrying a semi-automatic weapon) is from State Security.]
At no point did the darak or the one member of the LAF that eventually showed up—and appeared to take charge of the situation—place the attacker/driver under arrest. Instead, they kept imploring the protesters to clear the street and go away. While this was happening, the armed State Security man by the side of the attacker continued to threaten protesters. With his gun in one hand, he kept yelling: “do not touch the car” and “get out of the way.” Who this man was, what right he had to carry a weapon in broad daylight, and why neither the darak nor the LAF soldier saw fit to disarm him as he threatened the protesters is unclear.
[Photo showing attacker/driver texting as protesters surround him. To the right of him is the member of State Security that intervened on his behalf. Further to the right is the member of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) that was present.]
At one point, the LAF soldier turned to the attacker/driver and asked him for his identification. At that point, the State Security man intervened and spoke directly with the soldier, while the attacker/driver walked away to make a phone call. The attacker/driver eventually got back in his car and made his way back to the front of the darak station, as that was the only way out of the area. He was preceded by an ambulance, which at one point protesters thought was providing him cover as he attempted to flee the scene. Consequently, protesters stopped the ambulance, put a barricade in front of the attacker/driver’s car, and then proceeded to let the ambulance through.
Once again, both sets of protesters regrouped and proceeded to prevent the attacker/driver from passing. It was at this point that the protesters chanted “arrest him, arrest him” repeatedly, and “shame, shame, shame” at the darak personnel that were standing outside of the station. They had been doing more to clear the road of protesters than detain the man that had committed a hit-and-run in front of them, and was now being accused (along with photographic and video evidence) of pulling a gun on one of the protesters after he reversed away from the station.
[Protesters surround the car of the attacker/driver once again after he had attempted to flee the scene, pulled a gun on one of the protesters, and refused to show a member of the LAF his identification when asked for it. In this photo, darak members can be seen doing more to clear the protesters than interrogate or detain the attacker/driver.]
The protesters chanted "arrest him, arrest him" in unison for several minutes. The attacker/driver was eventually taken into the station, allegedly to be charged for the hit-and-run. Soon after, the five men that were detained since earlier in the day were released. However, once protesters dispersed, the attacker/driver was released and the unofficial word is that he was not charged with anything. As of writing, protesters, activists, and legal advocates are strategizing on how to bring this man to justice, and how to expose the complicity of the darak, the military court judge, and all other individuals that aided or stood idly by in both the Friday night attack and the Saturday series of events.
Video of 28 and 29 June Events
The following video was produced shortly after the events of Saturday 29 June 2013. It is a compliation of different videos shot by various individuals on the night of Friday 28 June and throughout the day on Saturday 29 June. While a Jadaliyya affiliate contributed to this compulation, the below video was edited and produced by activists directly involved in the events of the past thirty-six hours. For context and details of these events, read the above report compiled by the Jadaliyya affiliate who witnessed many of Saturday`s developments but conducted interviews for those events s/he was not a witness to.
00:00 - 01:30: (First night, Friday 28 June) Confrontation between MP convoy and cafe attendees.
01:31 - 02:20: Darak intervention in MP convoy attack on cafe attendeees.
02:21 - 03:28: (Next Day, Saturday 29 June) Attempted feeling of attacker/driver, and his hit-and-run.
03:29 - 04:18: Photos of attacker/driver pulling a gun on protester, his being surrounded by larger group of protesters, and intervention of State Security to protect attacker/driver.
04:19 - 05:09: Attempted feeling of attacker/driver behind an ambulance and protestors taking action to stop him.
05:10 - 05:47: Darak attempting to clear protesters from road, their resistence to this, and insistence that attacker/driver by arrested.
05:48 - 06:59: Darak removing attacker/driver from his car and "requiring" him to go into the station. Note how the entire time the State Security person in question is escorting him and mediating between the attacker/driver and the darak.
07:00 - 08:25: Neighborhood resident who witnessed the entire day`s events cannot help but be disgusted by what she see. She comes down from her balcony and curses the darak, saying the entire station should be closed because of their complicity in what the attacker/driver did to the protesters when he ran over them.
08:26 - 08:51: Closing statement by one of the activists about what the protest was about and setting a date and time for their return to protest these most recent events and their underlying dynamics.