They weren’t numerous, far fewer than the over 1000 who had pledged their attendance on a hastily created Facebook event page. But the few hundred demonstrators (and throngs of journalists) who turned up today at Martyr’s Square were adamant about their message: No to war in Lebanon.
The rally followed an eerily quiet day in Beirut, in which you could clearly feel the tension. “It’s great for traffic” reporters joked with one another at the rally.
Over the weekend, clashes erupted across the country. The shooting of Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Wahed and Sheikh Mohammed Hussein by the Lebanese Army when they ran a checkpoint sparked the blocking of roads with burning tires and calls for the Lebanese Army to withdraw from the Akkar region in the North. Later in the evening, clashes spread to Beirut as two rival Sunni factions; the March 14 (anti-Syrian regime) Mustaqbal movement and the March 8 aligned Arab Movement Party, headed up by Shaker Berjaoui. When the latter agreed to leave his headquarters, the LAF could move in and restore order.
The rally today, held at Martyr’s Square in front of the bullet riddled statue which commemorates Lebanese independence, was in response to these events.
‘Don’t grow consipiracy theories and hatred, instead grow grapes and cotton’ read one sign.
‘We are not sheep’ read another in reference to the sheep like behaviour many Lebanese feel the population has towards their leaders.
‘No War’ read the stickers which were put up on the Square’s iconic statue, a tribute to Lebanon’s freedom.
There were a few speeches and people sang together “we are all the homeland”.
Plans to march towards Tariq al Jadide, where last night’s clashes happened, were postponed, as a rival Salafi demonstration was going on there. “We aren’t numerous enough, they might shoot at us” said Saad, an activist. Furthermore, such a possibly antagonising move would completely contradict the rally’s mission. “It’s just not a good idea,” said Husam.
For more pics see http://www.demotix.com/news/1228025/no-war-lebanon-protest