SIDON, Lebanon: Supporters of Sheikh Ahmad Assir’s Sidon sit-in dug in further Tuesday, with demonstrators installing metal containers as housing along the main road they have closed for around three weeks. His closure of the northern entrance to Sidon in protest of Hezbollah’s arsenal shows few signs being lifted.
Assir has publicly renewed his vow to continue the protest, which has drawn hundreds of supporters, until his demands are met. He is calling for a “serious” discussion of Hezbollah’s arms at the National Dialogue table.
Previously protesters have been demonstrating in shifts or sleeping under tents, but the newly installed metal containers are a sign of an even more determined sit-in.
The demonstration is blocking Sidon’s main highway in both directions, but traffic can still pass on the coastal highway. Police deployed over the weekend to prevent the closure of more roads. The security presence around the protest has increased as the demonstration has become more controversial as it has worn on.
Many shop owners have staged counter protests due to the economic toll the road closure is taking on their businesses. They say the city is facing an economic crisis due to the sit-in, calling on Assir to relocate the protest.
The board of administration of Sidon’s Merchant Society held an emergency meeting Tuesday to discuss the economic impacts of the protest on the city.
It issued a statement after the meeting that highlighted the severe economic damage done to the city and expressed intense criticism of Assir.
“Sidon’s merchant association demands that all those concerned or all relevant authorities bear the responsibility of any action in the city and take in consideration the interests of a large segment of residents whose only source of living is commercial activity,” the statement said.
“Sidon residents are facing a grave responsibility to keep the city calm, away from tension.”
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 11, 2012, on page 3.