Thousands of Lebanese Demonstrate against 'Corrupt' Politicians, Issue Ultimatum

Thousands of anti-government protesters marched on Saturday from the interior ministry in the capital's Hamra thoroughfare to downtown Beirut's Martyrs Square in an anti-government protest organized by civil society, which is frustrated with the political class.

"You Stink,” which started as an online movement, is the main activist group behind the protest.

A “You Stink” member said in a speech at the protest that its battle will continue until the resignation of Environment Minister Mohammed al-Mashnouq and the election of a president.

It gave the government 72 hours to meet its demands, warning that after the deadline expires it will take escalatory measures not just in Beirut.

The movement's campaign started over the fetid piles of trash mounting in the streets of Beirut and Mount Lebanon after the government closed last month the country's main landfill in Naameh, but it has mushroomed into a movement against the entire political structure.

It sees the political class as corrupt and incapable of providing basic services to citizens.

Many of the protesters waved Lebanese flags and wore white T-shirts that read "You Stink."

They chanted anti-government slogans, urging politicians to leave their posts.

In the absence of political party flags which normally dominate such events in Lebanon, the crowd carried banners mocking politicians.

"Ali Baba and the 128 thieves," read one, in reference to Speaker Nabih Berri and the 128-member parliament.

"Sometimes doing nothing is the most violent thing to do," read another.

One protester held a placard saying “Politicians are like sperm, one in a million turns out to be human being.”

Reflecting concern over renewed clashes, "You Stink" said it deployed 500 volunteers to coordinate with security forces and prevent violence.

The Lebanese army and police also ran a joint operations room to guarantee the well-being of protesters.

The military deployed troops around Martyrs Square while policemen were present inside the square.

The demonstration was largely peaceful but some men crossed the barbed wire in nearby Riad al-Solh square and threw water bottles and rocks on police.

The protest came as the London-based rights group Amnesty International called on Lebanese authorities to investigate allegations that security forces have used excessive force to disperse two rallies held last weekend.

The rallies outside the Grand Serail drew up to 20,000 people. Security forces fired live rounds, used rubber bullets and hurled stones or beat protesters, leaving scores hospitalized.

Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq acknowledged there were "mistakes" that led to the excessive use of force and said an investigation, whose results will be released next week, was under way.

Source: Associated Press, Naharnet, Agence France Presse

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