Lebanon News

Camping out for a cause: Protesters sleep on streets

Protesters have been camping out in Downtown Beirut since the outbreak of the demonstrations. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Protesters have been camping out on the streets in an effort to keep roads blocked since last Thursday, when nationwide protests swept across Lebanon.

Some have set up tents and sleeping bags in various locations in Downtown Beirut throughout the demonstrations, which started on Oct. 17.

Twenty-one-year-old Mazen said he and many other people had been sleeping on the streets for the past eight days, only heading home to shower and change clothes.

Some have been camping out in order to keep the roads closed. “If we go home, the roads will reopen,” Mazen told The Daily Star, adding that security forces tried opening the highway early Wednesday morning, but were unsuccessful.

“We are not leaving this place [the streets],” said another man, who asked not to be identified, who had camped out at the “Ring.”

“Every cause has its price, and we are ready to pay the price,” he said.

According to him, 30-40 people have been staying at the “Ring.”

People have been sleeping in tents in Martyrs’ Square, where many food vendors have also set up shop.

Multiple tents have also been set up in Riad al-Solh Square, the location of dynamic protests and clashes, facing the Grand Serail.

One man sitting on a beach chair among a group in Riad al-Solh said, “People take shifts, stay here and dedicate as much of their time as possible to keep the revolution alive.”

“We are staying the night, since many disagreements and scuffles are taking place between people with opposing views ... and we are trying to raise awareness on the people’s demands and help find a common ground,” he added.

Twenty-two-year-old Karen Hilal, who is a university student, said she and a couple of her friends, part of the “Youth Movement for Change,” had been sleeping in Riad al-Solh Square.

“We are staying here until our demands are fulfilled,” she said. Asked what those demands were, she said the resignation of the government, the formation of a technocratic government that will oversee early parliamentary elections, and the return of looted money from the people. Besides the now overemphasized demand of the resignation of the ruling class, the group of people camping out at Riad al-Solh Square all agreed that abolishing Lebanon’s sectarian system was crucial.

The tents set up on the “Ring” highway have since been destroyed and burned down by Hezbollah supporters following clashes between them, protesters and security forces in Riad al-Solh Square Friday afternoon.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 26, 2019, on page 2.

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