Naharnet

More Protests Threaten Cabinet as Trash Crisis Deepens

A movement that has been organizing protests in downtown Beirut against endemic corruption said on Wednesday that it was ready to hold more demonstrations to give back the people their rights, deepening a crisis that started over piles of uncollected garbage in the streets of the capital and Mount Lebanon.

“We wanted to send a message through our demonstration that we are ready to sacrifice ourselves to gain our rights,” said the “We Want Accountability” movement at a press conference it held in Riad al-Solh Square a day after several protesters were injured in a scuffle with police.

“The regime fears the people who are calling for their rights. That's why it is assaulting them,” it said.

“Our battle is not with police but with the regime,” said the movement, which called for the release of all protesters arrested on Tuesday.

“We can't guarantee that the people's anger won't turn into some kind of rioting,” it told reporters as it called for another protest at Riad al-Solh square at 6:00 pm Wednesday.

“We Want Accountability” also urged the cabinet to resign and vowed to file a lawsuit against all security forces members who assaulted the protesters.

One of the movement's lawyers said 60 percent of those arrested during Tuesday's protest have been released but four remain missing.

The Internal Security Forces said in a communique that it arrested 48 people who took part in Tuesday's riots, but kept 18 of them in custody for further questioning.

Following their press conference, “We Want Accountability” activists held a sit-in near al-Helou barracks in Beirut to call for the release of the demonstrators.

Their protests are inspired by the grassroots youth movement calling itself "You Stink,” which mobilized thousands of people in two rallies over the weekend, and has called for another large protest on Saturday.

"You Stink” began as an online group which accuses politicians of wanting to get the bigger cut from waste management contracts.

The trash crisis erupted when the Naameh landfill south of Beirut was closed on July 17 and when garbage began piling up on the streets of Beirut and Mount Lebanon.

On Tuesday, the cabinet unanimously rejected the winning bidders to manage trash collection, citing high costs and a bidding procedure some said was questionable.

Prime Minister Tammam Salam suggested dumping the garbage in the remote, impoverished region of Akkar, which has been neglected for decades, in exchange for $100 million in development projects as an incentive.

But such a proposal angered the residents of the region who held a protest on Tuesday night shouting "Akkar is not a garbage dump!”

Calls by some politicians, including Environment Minister Mohammed al-Mashnouq, to reopen the Naameh landfill pending a settlement on the bidders also prompted the residents of the town and nearby areas to issue a statement.

They warned the authorities that they would set on fire any truck transporting waste to the landfill.

The statement also asked Salam to issue a decree that states the permanent closure of the landfill.

G.K.

M.T.


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