Lebanon/YouStink calls for new rally Saturday

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 YouStink calls for new rally Saturday
Now Lebanon/August 24/15

BEIRUT – The Tol3et Ree7atkom (“You Stink”) activist group has called for a new demonstration Saturday after chaos ensuing from Sunday’s rally forced the grassroots campaign to postpone a protest originally scheduled for Monday.  “We call for a protest at 6:00 p.m. at a site that will be announced at a later date,” a spokesperson for the group announced in a press conference held in the Legal Agenda’s office in Beirut’s Adlieh.  The organization stressed that its main cause was the just resolution of Lebanon’s garbage crisis, and was not seeking to tack on issues to its agenda, despite the myriad of slogans adopted by the thousands of demonstrators who joined the group’s recent rallies.  You Stink further insisted the upcoming rally would seek to annul tenders granted for waste management in Lebanon, which were announced earlier in the day and will be discussed by the cabinet in its session scheduled for Tuesday.

You Stink also expressed its rejection of the legitimacy of Lebanon’s parliament—which has extended its term twice—and said the legislature could not be trusted to elect Lebanon’s new president, a post that has been vacant since Michel Suleiman stepped down in May 2014.  The organization added that Lebanon’s government lost its legitimacy after “chasing people through the streets of Beirut,” in reference to the tear gassing of a peaceful crowd of demonstrators Saturday evening in Downton Beirut.   Even as You Stink prepares for its upcoming demonstration, a number of activists Monday planned to hold a candle-lit march from Adlieh to Downtown Beirut in support for Mohammad Kassir, a protester who suffered severe head wounds during the violence that erupted in the large rally the night before.

 Others still had gathered in Downtown Beirut’s Riad al-Solh Square earlier Monday to denounce the security forces’ erection of a concrete barrier separating the iconic site from the premier’s official Grand Serail seat of power.   Thousands of Lebanese poured into Downtown Beirut on Sunday for the second day running after a demonstration Saturday evening was suppressed by the security forces with rubber bullets, tear gas canisters, water cannons, and even live bullets.

The demonstrations began as a response to a weeks-long garbage crisis but escalated this weekend into calls for the resignation of the cabinet, the holding of parliamentary elections, and the prosecution of members of the army, Internal Security Forces, and Parliamentary Guards who attacked protestors Saturday.  Attendance of the protest on Sunday hit its peak shortly after 6:00 p.m. in festive style, with demonstrators singing the national anthem and repeatedly chanting the now-ubiquitous phrase “the people want the fall of the regime” made famous by the 2011 Arab Spring revolts.

 However, a little over an hour later a number of young men near Riad al-Solh Square began to move the barbed wire barricades erected to keep demonstrators from approaching the Grand Serail, which serves as the government’s seat of power.  Security services quickly responded by dousing protesters with water cannons, after which chaos descended on the area as a number of protesters began to throw water bottles and whatever other objects they could get their hands on at the ISF forces.  As the night settled over Beirut, the You Stink activist group called on its protesters to move to nearby Martyrs Square, away from the scenes of violence, while angry young men—whose allegiance remains unknown—continued to take on the security forces.  Activists at the scene claimed that the men were members of Speaker Nabih Berri’s Amal Movement, a charge strenuously denied by the party in a statement that accused media outlets of “spreading lies.”

Amid the worsening chaos, You Stink at around 9:00 p.m. called on its protesters to leave. By this time security forces were hurling large numbers of tear gas canisters at the remaining demonstrators, who had begun to set fire to the construction site for The Landmark Hotel behind Riad al-Solh Square.  One protester suffered a wound to the head from an unknown source during the fracas, leaving him bloodied and unconscious on the ground. He was rushed to the American University of Beirut Medical Center in reportedly critical condition.  Hundreds of protesters were then pushed back from the edge of Beirut’s downtown quarter shortly after 10:00 p.m. as security forces advanced amid heavy tear gas fire.

However, a small group of rioters returned to the site of the demonstration and vandalized the upscale quarter of Lebanon’s capital.  Fires were set near the Mohammad al-Amin Grand Mosque, with rioters even setting alight a police vehicle, while traffic signs and lights were ripped out of the ground.  At midnight the Lebanese army deployed in force in the area, chasing the rioters out to the nearby Bashoura neighborhood of Beirut, ending hours of chaos that had engulfed the Lebanese capital.  The Red Cross reported that 43 people had been injured in the melee, while the ISF said 30 of its officers had been hurt.