A demo dubbed “Freedoms March” was attacked and besieged by a mob Saturday in downtown Beirut after it was accused of “promoting homosexuality.”
The attacks against protesters and journalists left several people wounded and the besieged individuals were eventually evacuated in Internal Security Forces armored vehicles after several hours of chaos.
Media reports identified the attackers as members of Islamist groups who came from Tariq al-Jedideh and Beirut’s southern suburbs as well as militants from the hardline Christian group Soldiers of God.
The march had been scheduled to head at 4pm from the Riad al-Solh Square towards the Interior Ministry in Sanayeh.
Videos circulated online showed the attackers beating up some activists and bloodying them up and shouting insults and slurs at others.
The attackers said that they reject “all types and forms of perversion on Beirut’s streets,” calling on the interior minister to immediately ban the march “because we will prevent it from passing through any road in Beirut and will confront the participants.”
The Progressive Socialist Party meanwhile said “the attack on the people in central Beirut is totally condemned and rejected regardless of any consideration.”
“Security forces must arrest the attackers and refer them to the judiciary, seeing as it is their duty to perform their role in preserving freedom,” the PSP added.
A statement recited by one of the march’s organizers said the demo was called “Freedoms March” in protest at “the authorities that are repressing individual, journalistic, syndical and other freedoms.”
“It is a reaction against all the repressive stances and the strenuous efforts to muzzle mouths in favor of the hardline trend that does not tolerate intellectual, sexual, gender and political diversity,” the statement said.
Rainbows, school books, movies and drag shows have all been targeted in Lebanon in recent weeks as politicians, religious leaders and vigilante groups step up a campaign against the LGBTQ+ community in a country that has long shown relative tolerance.
In August, several dozen men from the Soldiers of God group trashed a Beirut nightclub hosting a drag show. They beat up several people, driving some patrons to hide in a bathroom.
The education minister also recently banned a game of Chutes and Ladders that was distributed to schools as part of a USAID project because it was decorated with a rainbow, Lebanese media reported. A video circulated online showed a man in the northern city of Tripoli using black paint to cross out a rainbow on the side of a van distributing books.
In early August, caretaker Culture Minister Mohammed Murtada requested for the General Security Directorate to ban the movie "Barbie," saying it "promotes homosexuality and transgenders." The Directorate, however, ruled that the movie is permitted and it eventually started showing in early September.
In a recent meeting, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, several government ministers and the head of the Maronite Church Cardinal Beshara al-Rahi discussed homosexuality. Afterward, the premier told reporters that "there is unanimity to abide by moral Lebanese and family values."
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, called in a recent speech for the death penalty on people engaged in same-sex acts, calling homosexuality "a clear and present danger." He accused NGOs of circulating books for school children that promote homosexuality and called for the books to be banned.
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