BEIRUT: Linking arms and waving flags, protesters in Lebanon formed a human chain on Sunday stretching from Akkar in the north of the country to the capital Beirut in the south amid continued protests at government inaction over the country’s spiralling economy. Demonstrators in Tripoli, Batroun, Jbeil and Jounieh opened roads to allow people to join the human chain or gather in city squares. Protest groups included families and children with the national flag drawn on their faces.
In Martyrs Square in the heart of Beirut, protesters have started selling water, coffee, tea and traditional food items, while others have set up a large tent where people gather to share their opinions and ideas.
The largely peaceful protests were interrupted by violent clashes on Saturday night that left seven people injured in Beddawi in Tripoli after the Lebanese army fired on protesters with rubber bullets.
Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri ordered Lebanese Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun to “conduct a swift investigation into the incident,” and promised to protect protesters on the third day of protests.
Meanwhile, two deputies, President Michel Aoun’s son-in-law Shamel Roukoz and leading businessman Neemat Frem, announced they would leave the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) in the wake of the protests. The two MPs won their seats in the last parliamentary elections in 2018.
Ten years ago, before getting involved in public affairs, I warned of social collapse, but we could not avoid it and this is what exploded.
Neemat Frem A businessman
In a TV interview, Frem said: “Ten years ago, before getting involved in public affairs, I warned of social collapse, but we could not avoid it and this is what exploded.”
Roukoz tweeted on Oct. 24: “Do not ignore the root of the problem: There is no trust in authority today. Let this government leave immediately. The attempts to patch things up and revive it will not work. We need a government of reliable, trustworthy specialists.” His wife, Claudine, tweeted on the same day: “Early elections, better for today and tomorrow.”
Protesters are demanding government resignations, including the controversial foreign minister and FPM leader Gebran Bassil, and also want Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah to quit.
Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi on Sunday warned against “dealing with peaceful protesters in a superior, reckless and politicized way.”
He supported the “formation of a new government in every respect, smaller and impartial, formed by accomplished and respected individuals who are experts and agreed upon beforehand to prevent a gap, in order to work on implementing the reform paper announced by the prime minister and accepted by protesters.”
Al-Rahi said: “Our political system in Lebanon is democratic, not dictatorial. The people are the source of authority and no one is canceling people, imposing their view or their will on the people. Do not ignore this national revolution so that it does not stray from its positive national path, because of the hired infiltrators vandalizing while wearing sheep’s clothes.”