Lebanon News

Sidon’s vegetable sellers clash with police over illegal stands

Avendor walks past a burning cart in Sidon. Mohammad Zaatari. 8-2-2011

SIDON, Lebanon: Vegetable sellers set fire to tires and a vegetable cart, closing the main street of the city’s commercial market Monday, in protest against the municipality’s decision to remove illegal vegetable stands and carts that were hampering the movement of traffic.

Following attempts by the municipal police to implement the municipality’s decision to remove all illegal vegetable stands inside Sidon’s commercial market, a large number of vegetable stand owners gathered in the marketplace, where they expressed their rejection of the decision.

The owners said that the decision would affect their livelihoods and questioned how the municipality could implement such a decision at the start of the month of Ramadan.

A large force from Sidon’s city police arrived to the city’s Nejmeh Square to help the municipal police enforce the decision.

As the situation escalated and the owners insisted on continuing their protest, some shops closed their doors and the market’s activities temporarily came to a halt.

Meanwhile, protesters were participating in indirect negotiations with the municipality and Sidon’s Merchants’ Association.

After two hours of protests, an agreement was reached to end the sit-in and reopen the road in exchange for deferring the implementation of the decision until after the holy month of Ramadan.

Sidon’s municipality said that the goal of the campaign is to organize the commercial market, especially the vegetable stands, which were blocking traffic. The municipality said it would be firm in enforcing its decision immediately after Ramadan.

“The aim is to organize the market. We don’t want to cut off anyone’s livelihood. We are only interested in preserving the city of Sidon and its decent image,” Sidon Deputy Mayor Ibrahim Bsat said.

According to Bsat, vegetable stand owners were informed of the municipality’s decision and were given a period of time to remove their carts.

“The work of stand owners should not be at the expense of shop owners and market merchants who pay rent and taxes, while stand owners operate illegally and do not pay anything,” Bsat added.

The municipality is seeking to group the vegetable stand owners with other street vendors in a separate vegetable marketplace which it is planning to establish in the neighborhood of Sahel al-Sabagh.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 02, 2011, on page 3.

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