Lebanon News

Uprising day 24: Protesters march to squares on foot, bike

BEIRUT: Demonstrations were held across the country Saturday as people took to the streets for the 24th straight day of the Lebanese uprising.

A group of over 50 bikes toured Sidon, breaking a 20-year-old motorcycle ban. The group then joined the protesters at the Elia intersection.

Motorbikes have been banned in Sidon since 1999, after a string of major crimes were carried out utilizing the vehicles.

In Beirut, hundreds marched from Beirut's Justice Palace to the city's Riad al-Solh Square, calling for the protection of journalists from the judiciary.

In Tripoli, a women's march was held on the city's streets.

A nationwide uprising that started Oct. 17 has seen hundreds of thousands take to the streets in protest against what is seen as the state's corruption and officials' incompetence in dealing with the country's dire economic situation.

The protesters demanded the resignation of the government, which happened on Oct. 29 when Saad Hariri resigned from his post as premier, bringing down the government with him. The protesters have also demanded the immediate formation of a technocratic government, early parliamentary elections and the early end of President's Michel Aoun 3-year-old term, in addition to holding corrupt officials accountable and the return of "looted public funds."

Saturday morning, students across the country led the movement, holding demonstrations and closing state institutions.

Protesters in Tyre blocked entrances to state-run Electricite du Liban, telecoms company Ogero and mobile operator touch.

In Sidon, the students sat in the Elia intersection, playing musical instruments and singing revolutionary songs.

Demonstrations by students and protesters also took place in Tripoli, Dinnieh, Akkar, Baalbeck and Majdal Anjar, as well as other locations across Lebanon.

In Beirut, protesters set up tents late Friday night in the luxurious Zaitunay Bay, where dozens of multimillion-dollar yachts are docked, in protest of the private appropriation of public land.

On Saturday, a group of people gathered outside the Foreign Ministry. Over a hundred riot police personnel were seen arriving to surround the ministry as about 50 people gathered outside.

Later in the day, a group of people who had passed the Civil Service Board tests for state employment but were never hired protested on the road leading to Baabda Palace. They have long demanded that Aoun sign the decree to employ them, but this has been held up due to an imbalance between the number of Muslims and Christians who passed the exams.

A delegation of five people then went to Baabda Palace, reportedly to meet the president. However, they met caretaker Minister of State for Presidency Affairs Salim Jreissati on behalf of the president. Speaking after the meeting, a representative of the delegation said Jreissati promised that they will be dealt with “justly” after Parliament discusses Article 95 of the Constitution.

Aoun had requested that Parliament discuss the article, which calls for the creation of a national committee to eliminate confessionalism in state institutions in Lebanon. The article also prohibits sect from being taking into consideration when hiring for state jobs like the ones the protesters are slated to fill.

In the Bisri Valley, other protesters held a demonstration against the controversial Bisri dam, which is being built in the area.

After security forces closed off the valley, protesters broke through the police's human chain and entered the valley. Vehicles were seen digging in the valley, and old trees were observed to have been chopped down.

The dam project is funded by the World Bank. It aims to create a 125-million-cubic-meter reservoir.

The project has been heavily opposed by environmental groups, which cite issues related to biodiversity, cultural heritage, public health, the local economy and seismic activity. But the World Bank says the project will benefit over 1.6 million people living in greater Beirut and Mount Lebanon by providing them drinking water.

“We will stay here to restore the valley to its original state,” one of the area’s residents, who joined the protest, said.

By the afternoon, hundreds gathered in Tripoli’s Al-Nour Square. The city has been referred to as the “bride of the revolution” as enthusiastic crowds have turned out every night.





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