Updated: 11pm Sunday 23 August (Beirut Time)
For the second night in a row protestors have clashed with riot police and armed forces in downtown Beirut. Yesterday security forces attempted to violently disperse protestors at a demonstration called for by the You Stink movement using water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets. In response, Lebanese television stations reported that over fifteen thousand people from all over the country congregated in downtown Beirut to continue to demand accountability for government and elite corruption, a plan to provide affordable and reliable public goods (garbage disposal, running water, and electricity), and the immediate resignation of the Lebanese government. In solidarity with protestors in Beirut, protests were held in the northern city of Tripoli and the southern city of Nabatieh and several major highways across the country were shut down by citizens.
The Lebanese government is currently a caretaker government, one that lacks electoral legitimacy due to the illegal extension of the current parliament’s term and the deferral of parliamentary elections that were scheduled for 2014. In addition to the lack of an elected parliament, there has been a presidential vacuum for over a year.
As of writing, downtown Beirut is a battlefield between protestors and security forces. Over thirty protesters have been injured—many critically— in violent altercations with security forces and brutal methods of dispersal. The YouStink movement is alleging that “baltagia” or “thugs” allied to established political leaders and parties have infiltrated the protest and used violence—including throwing Molotov cocktails— against security forces in order to discredit their political demands. Other protestors are suggesting that the violent altercations are not due to infiltrators, but are rather due to protestors reacting to government-ordered brutal anti-demonstration measures and a lack of clear cohesion in protestors` demands. These security measures include storming, beating, throwing stones and firing tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets.
As of yet, no Lebanese government official has resigned. Another protest has been called for tomorrow. There are unconfirmed reports of a protestor dyring from his wounds.
Original Post 3am Sunday August 23 (Beirut Time)
On Saturday 22 August 2015 thousands of people rallied in Beirut to protest political and economic corruption and the dismal state of public utility services in Lebanon. The lack of reliable basic services in the country, including water, electricity, and garbage pickup, has a long history that was exacerbated by the civil war, the subsequent political settlements, and periodic Israeli military strikes. The failure to provide reliable and affordable public services to the entire country has been a feature of every post-independencen government formed.
Saturday’s demonstration was organized by the "You Stink" campaign. But it was also galvanized by the police brutality that protestors were subjected to on 19 August at a similar protest. Videos from that demonstration show Lebanese security forces charging at and beating protestors with batons while dressed in riot gear. The videos went viral, and when combined with organizing efforts, resulted in thousands of demonstrators taking to the streets today, Saturday 22 August 2015.
The protestors gathered in downtown Beirut near the parliament building, an area that has become the central arena of political protests in Lebanon since 2005. They are demanding that the Lebanese government resign, and that the corruption that plagues the country’s services be made public and addressed. Today, the protestors were again met with police brutality, this time with batons, water canons, tear gas, and rubber bullets. In addition to barricading parts of the downtown area, the government also deployed the army. As of writing, protestors are still trying to hold their ground in downtown Beirut as Lebanese security forces and military forces continue to brutalize them.
The “You Stink” campaign is a grassroots activist network that arose out of public frustration and anger over the trash buildup in Beirut in particular and Lebanon more generally in July 2015. During this month, garbage collection stopped in Beirut as activitsts and residents successfully blocked access to the landfill that had been dangerously filled to over capacity. This landfill began functioning in 1997 as a “temporary” solution to Lebanon’s garbage. In 2014 the government had made promises to find an alternative when residents also succeeded in blocking access to the landfill. Yet the government failed to find a solution, and there is very little indication that it even attempted to do so. In July 2015, after the garbage had not been picked up in Beirut for weeks, the government began trucking and dumping trash to and in towns and municipalities outside of Beirut without the consent (and sometimes knowledge) of the residents of those municipalities. This was the overall context within which “You Stink” campaing mobilized.
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Videos from Saturday`s Protest and Government Repression
Overhead shot showing water cannons pushing back protesters:
Security Forces threating protesters with gun fire:
Video from Previous Protest (19 August)
One of the videos that went viral: