Lebanon News

Protesters resume road closures on day 79

Lebanese army soldiers remove burned tiers and tree branches that were set on fire by anti-government protesters to block a major highway that links the capital Beirut to northern Lebanon, in the town of Nahr el-Kalb, north of Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Jan. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

BEIRUT/SIDON: Despite heavy rainfall protesters blocked roads across the country which were later reopened Friday, the 79th day of Lebanon’s antigovernment protests. The Lebanese Army opened most of the roads that were blocked off by protesters in Tripoli. Meanwhile protesters gathered in front of various private and public institutions in the northern city, preventing employees from entering, the state-run Nation News Agency reported.

The Nahr al-Kalb highway was blocked by protesters, causing suffocating traffic, but was later reopened, while main roads in Akkar were also cut off.

The Halba highway was also reopened after being blocked by tires set on fire by protesters.

At a bank in Halba, a five-hour sit in was staged in which dozens of Lebanese protested the bank’s financial policies. According to the NNA there was a brief scuffle between the protesters and security forces inside the bank. A video circulating social media showed a crowd of security personnel and protesters clashing outside the bank while two protesters launched themselves off a parked SUV into the crowd.

Earlier Friday protesters also closed the Sidon highway to Beirut with trucks and concrete blocks, preventing cars from passing.

Road closures have been an instrumental protest tactic in Lebanon’s nationwide uprising, which saw thousands of people have taken to the streets since Oct. 17, calling for the overhaul of a decades-old sectarian political system and the fall of country’s the ruling elite.

Heavy rainfall and thunderstorms are expected to continue until Sunday the Meteorology Department at Beirut’s airport reported Friday. As rain is expected to continue over the winter season, there are concerns the weather might impede protesters’ efforts to block roads, demonstrate in Martyr’s Square and outside public and private institutions.

But Samir Saliba, an activist and protest organizer from the “I Am a Red Line’ initiative,” was optimistic.

“Of course the rain will affect the nature of the protests, but it will make them more organized,” Saliba told The Daily Star. He expected there to be more dispersed but organized protests across the country, not unlike the road closures that were witnessed earlier in the day.

He added that there had been great cooperation to provide ponchos and umbrellas to protesters from groups and initiatives on the ground. “Like we did on New Year’s Eve when we celebrated despite the rain, we’ll continue to protest in the rain,” he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 04, 2020, on page 2.




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