BEIRUT/SIDON: Thousands of school and university students across the country marked the 22nd day of nationwide protests Thursday morning, marching through the streets and gathering in front of state institutions.
Hundreds gathered in Beirut's Riad al-Solh Square, Tripoli's Al-Nour Square, in public spaces and in front of universities around the country.
A convoy of university students set off from Balamand University in north Lebanon Thursday morning and made their way to the capital, stopping off and collecting fellow students from institutions including Lebanese University, Lebanese American University and American University of Beirut.
One group of students stood outside the doors of their campus with a model coffin, painted with the words, "Here lie the dreams of the Lebanese youth."
The central demands of protesters – whether on the streets of Ashrafieh or Nabatieh, or gathered in front of the Lebanese University campus in Sidon – were bringing an end to corruption, the provision of affordable education and the creation of jobs.
“We want free education and to be able to work,” said one protester who had joined a group of hundreds more in front of the Education Ministry in Beirut. “In order to get into Lebanese University you need [endless amounts of] wasta,” he added.
“We want work, we don’t want to have to travel abroad after we graduate,” said one business management graduate at the Sidon protest.
In many areas, most notably Tripoli, students pulled down portraits of political leaders and replaced them with the Lebanese flag.
Students have been gathering in Sidon since the early hours of the morning where they also protested in front of the Sidon Serail amid the presence of Lebanese Army and security forces.
In Beirut, students from different universities gathered in front of the Lebanese American University in Qouraitem, where they blocked the road, amid cheers.
“We want the LAU to close, so that we can head to the streets without being concerned about our future,” one student told local LBCI channel.
Demonstrators who gathered near LAU then marched towards Sanayeh and Hamra Street, stopping near Haigazian University.
The students then headed to the American University of Beirut, where they gathered outside the main gate blocking Bliss Street.
“We are mature and educated people. I tell all the people to wake up,” a student speaking from the Fanar campus of the Lebanese University said.
Similar scenes were witnessed in both Baalbeck and Nabatieh as students marched through the streets carrying banners and Lebanese flags.
The student-led protests swept the country for the second day, in a remarkable show of unity among students across Lebanon.
Caretaker Education Minister Akram Chehayeb called on students to return to class in order to avoid "wasting the academic year."
Other protesters targeted state electricity institutions, calling for an end to pollution and corruption in the sector. Hundreds assembled in front of the Zouk Mosbeh power plant, preventing employees from entering, and in their dozens in front of Electricite du Liban in Corniche Al Nahr.
“Our aim is to live in a clean country, where we have electricity and basic services,” said one protester in Zouk Mosbeh.
Referring to the detrimental effect of pollution on the health of local residents, another told a reporter with the TV station Al Jadeed, “Everyone here is ill, and despite spending millions of dollars there is no electricity.”
Several dozen protesters marched from the Murr Tower to The Court of Audit in Verdun, which was forced to close its doors upon their arrival. Lines of police prevented the protesters from entering the building.
One protester told an MTV reporter, “We are not blocking employees from entering the building. We are here to place something symbolic on its door to send a message that we’ve had enough of corruption.”
Another man said, “We want centralized inspections and to know where the stolen money went.
Protesters then gathered in front of one of the entrances of Parliament, near Beirut Municipality.
“Lawmakers are the ones that should represent us, but instead they are the ones that stole from us,” one said.