SIDON, Lebanon: A two-day protest by vegetable vendors who blocked a road leading to the main square of this southern city was called off after the pressure they exerted on Sidon officials seemed to have paid off.
Dozens of vendors were seen dismantling the tents they had erected in Nijmeh Square Tuesday to protest their relocation to the new souk.
Jamal Jaafil, a member of the delegation that met Sidon municipal head Mohammad Saudi, said an agreement has been reached to allow vendors to return to the commercial souks Thursday.
“As a goodwill gesture, we immediately began to pull out of the streets in return for being allowed to go back to the commercial souks tomorrow,” Jaafil told The Daily Star.
A huge traffic buildup occurred on the coastal highway linking Beirut with south Lebanon earlier Wednesday as the vegetable protest – together with an ongoing anti-Hezbollah sit-in – blocked the main roads of Sidon.
A group of about 60 vegetable vendors blocked the road leading to Nijmeh Square with their carts for the second day straight Wednesday, some deliberately emptying crates of fruit and vegetables onto the street.
Garbage trucks arrived around 2 p.m. to clean up the litter.
“We’re rallying here because business is not going well at the new souk,” Mohammad Kallas said during the peak of the protest Wednesday. “We are trashing our fruits and vegetables.”
At around 10 a.m., some 30 angry protesters left the crowd in Nijmeh Square for the old commercial souks in downtown Sidon, tossing vegetables and fruits at store windows.
Proprietors quickly shut their stores for fear the protests would spin out of control.
The disgruntled vendors were denouncing a municipality decision made in March to relocate the vegetable stalls and carts from the commercial souks to the new souk.
Owners of legal vegetable carts and stalls have complained of a lack of business in the new souk.
Meanwhile, an ongoing sit-in by Sheikh Ahmad Assir and his supporters on Sidon’s highway has limited road travel between Beirut and Sidon to two routes, causing much traffic congestion on weekends.
Assir, who began his protest against Hezbollah’s arms last month, is blocking the highway at the northern entrance to Sidon.