Lebanon News

Protesters take on EDL on 26th day of uprising

Protesters sit in tents outside the EDL building in Beirut, Nov. 11, 2019. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Hundreds remained camped out in front of Electricite du Liban's Beirut headquarters Monday evening, on the 26th day of the mass uprising against corruption and the ruling elite.

All around the perimeter of the Mar Mikahel building, protesters lit candles and held discussions on the future of the country.

Many had woken up in tents Monday morning, vowing to block the streets surrounding the EDL building for 24 hours to symbolize the state-run company’s failure to provide 24-hour power. Dozens of tents surrounded the building’s location in Mar Mikhael and blocked off the adjacent highway intersection.

The electricity sector is at the core of the state's financial crisis, hemorrhaging up to $2 billion annually. Yet round-the-clock electricity remains stubbornly elusive.

“They’ve made a lot of promises, but we’ve seen nothing,” a protester lying in a hammock told local media early Monday morning.

Late Sunday evening, crowds had begun to gather around the company's headquarters. Fireworks were set off while speakers gave speeches about the political and economic situation to audiences sitting in the middle of the street.

Tensions were expected to come to a head tomorrow with protesters calling on Lebanese to block roads, in order to prevent a legislative session planned for Tuesday in Parliament taking place. But Speaker Nabih Berri announced Monday afternoon that the parliamentary session had been postponed for security reasons. Berri’s announcement follows growing opposition to the session, with critics asserting that it is unconstitutional and fails to respond to the demands of protesters.

In Martyr’s Square, protesters slowly gathered and some discussed the cancellation of the session.

“This has nothing to do with security. The decision to cancel the session is purely political. Next week, pressure from protesters will probably decrease and that’s what these politicians are banking on. That’s why they’re postponing this, for their own benefit and to buy time,” said Waleed, a university student.

Mariam Abdallah, 18, said that the decision was not a positive one. “We want things to happen as quickly as possible. The country doesn’t have time, we’re on the brink of economic collapse. We want them to leave ... They postponed this for their own benefit,” she said.

Crowds also began to gather in other locations across the country Monday.

Demonstrations picked up in front of the Central Bank's Beirut headquarters as the day progressed where protesters tried to break down the barrier with their hands and enter the bank’s courtyard.

In Tripoli's Al-Nour Square, protesters massed in their thousands once again on Monday evening. Numbers in Beirut were low to begin with, but a crowd began to build in Martyrs' Square by around 6 p.m., gathering around a giant print-out of the Lebanese flag, on which protesters wrote messages of support and revolution.

Students massed in front of Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, blocking the entrance and forcing all classes to stop for the day.

In Sidon, 30 fishing boats were launched from the port in a demonstration for the rights of fishermen and to support regulation of the fishing sector, in order to preserve fisheries.

The nationwide uprising has seen hundreds of thousands take to the streets since Oct. 17, in protest against state corruption and official incompetence in dealing with the country's dire economic situation.

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.

Demonstrators have also demanded the immediate formation of a technocratic government, early parliamentary elections and the early end of President's Michel Aoun three-year-old term, in addition to holding corrupt officials accountable and the return of "looted public funds."

 

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