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Lebanese, some in yellow vests, protest govt gridlock

December 24, 2018


Beirut: Anti-government protesters, some in yellow vests (background), wear Lebanese-flag-painted masks on Sunday.—AFP
Beirut: Anti-government protesters, some in yellow vests (background), wear Lebanese-flag-painted masks on Sunday.—AFP

HUNDREDS of Lebanese protested against deteriorating economic conditions on Sunday, with some briefly scuffling with army troops, as public anger mounts against politicians deadlocked over forming a new government since May. The army appealed for calm in a statement, urging protesters to remain peaceful. The protesters marched to the government building in central Beirut, carrying placards that called for an end to the deadlock and corruption. Some protesters sported the yellow vests worn by anti-government protesters in France. The call for the protests began on social media, with some using the symbol of a yellow vest with a cedar tree, a national symbol that appears on the country’s flag. The protests grew rowdy and angry protesters pelted security forces with water bottles.

Security forces deployed, setting up barricades separating them from the protesters in a standoff that locked down the city centre. By mid-afternoon, the demonstration began to fizzle but scores of protesters marched to a commercial district in Beirut, chanting “revolution” and urging others to join them. Local media and TV stations aired footage of army personnel chasing protesters when the scuffles broke out.

Protests have spread in recent weeks as rival politicians have failed to form a new government following parliamentary elections in May. Highly publicised efforts to form a compromise national unity government faltered on Saturday, fuelling the protesters’ anger the following day.

The protesters, who said they didn’t represent any particular political party, demanded improved health care, jobs and an end to corruption. “I am here to fight against the corruption of the state. We are here to bring back our social services. We need our rights. We need to live as human beings. We need that our government respects us,” said Michel al-Hajj, a protester.

Published in Dawn, December 24th, 2018