Dozens of protesters converged in Downtown Beirut Saturday despite a downpour and periods of gusty winds to challenge the government's controversial plan to export garbage.
“We are here simply to urge the Cabinet to assume its responsibility and resolve the waste crisis. We demand the collection of garbage from the streets and a sustainable solution,” one of the protesters told Al-Jadeed.
He emphasized that the Lebanese people “should raise their voices and reject any attempt by the state to impose additional taxes in resolving the crisis.”
“We are here to shed light on their errors. Change cannot happen through protests alone. But we are working in the shadows,” he said when asked about the relatively low turnout.
Around 100 protesters responded to the rally call, which began at 10:00 a.m.
Holding umbrellas, demonstrators chanted slogans against the state and its failure to tackle the trash crisis.
The bad weather is believed to have contributed to the poor turn-out, with Lebanon witnessing heavy rainfall Saturday.
Two hours into the rally, several activists removed an iron barricade separating them from riot police who had deployed in the area.
"We haven't gotten bored yet. They can leave if they want," a female protester said.
Another activist said that the barriers were removed because "we (protesters) are not animals. We are here to demonstrate our pain. We don't care about the rain or wires."
The famous Banks Street was briefly blocked by protesters.
Members of the We Want Accountability and For the Republic groups called on all Lebanese to participate en masse in Saturday’s protests.
Another demonstrator accused politicians of striking deals under the table to “divide shares” from the garbage exportation plan, saying that the “secretive manner in which the Cabinet chose the trash export firms was fishy.”
By 2:00 p.m. protesters began tossing trash bags at the Grand Serail as security forces set up a barbed-wire fence to prevent demonstrators from moving closer to the Serail.
The protesters used a small catapult to toss trash bags toward the Grand Serail.
"It's a gift from the Lebanese people to the Grand Serail and the Parliament," a protester said.
Activist lawyer Wassef Harakeh emphasized that the stance of the civil campaigns regarding the trash crisis is "clear."
"It's an open battle with the state," Harakeh told MTV, pointing out that all civic movements are coordinating their moves.
"We have a clear vision and our aim is basic," he said.
Later in the day, the protesters were joined by members from the Change is Coming group.
Activist Ayman Mroueh lamented that Lebanese were being exposed to hazardous waste decomposing on the sides of roads, but said it was unfair that citizens should have to pay for it to be exported.
Activists Friday had set up tents in Riad al-Solh Square ahead of the planned protest.
The Cabinet endorsed a plan in December to export trash as a means out of a ruinous garbage crisis which has seen trash pile up in valleys and populated areas across Mount Lebanon and Beirut since July.
In recent months, such protests have only managed to attract a couple hundred people at most as opposed to the thousands who used to turn out over summer.