BEIRUT: Hundreds of social activists, environmentalists and frustrated citizens joined together under the banner of a protest movement called “You Reek” Tuesday, blocking roads and demanding a sustainable resolution to the country’s ongoing garbage crisis.
The protesters stressed that their movement was not involved with any political party or confession. “These streets are for everybody,” said Hassan Chamoun, a protester.
According to one of the lead organizers, the “You Reek” epithet is a reference to both the mounds of putrid trash plaguing Beirut and the corrupt politicians who have allowed the crisis to come to a head. “It’s not just about garbage,” said Imad Bazzi, a radio host and civil society activist. “It’s about corruption too.”
“We’re protesting the garbage crisis and we’re protesting the system,” Chamoun confirmed.
While many of the trash mounds in Beirut had been collected by Tuesday afternoon, the You Reek campaign insists that the government’s stop-gap solutions are insufficient.
“There are people who are pissed off by what the government called a solution: We woke up today and it’s true that they cleaned some of the streets but they’ve dumped all the trash in open spaces in Sin al-Fil and Monte Verde. That’s not a solution,” said Assaad Thebian, an activist involved in the protest.
Bazzi said that he and other protesters followed garbage-laden trucks from Beirut and they witnessed the trash being dumped into the Beirut river and into abandoned bus depots.
“They’re trying to hide the garbage,” Bazzi said.
Paul Abi Rasched, an environmentalist involved in the campaign, said the “You Reek” protesters had six demands: that rubbish be sorted at the sources; that each municipality be responsible for collecting and sorting its own trash; and that each qada have a 20,000-square-meter area dedicated to composting.
“The decentralization will help us” manage the waste and will eliminate the need for dumping, Rached told The Daily Star.
Additionally, the protesters are demanding that the government refrain from dumping rubbish into the sea, that the use and construction of trash incinerators be halted, and that the authorities agree to stop creating new landfills.
The group, which is primarily organized on Facebook, intends to “escalate the pressure” in the coming days, Bazzi said. “Our next plan is hit and run actions.”
“We ask Lebanese citizens to stay tuned and to be mobilized very soon,” Thebian said.