Detroit area groups plan solidarity event Tuesday amid Lebanon protests
A coalition of Metro Detroit Lebanese organizations and media groups announced a solidarity event for Tuesday after Lebanese riot police battled protesters in the streets of downtown Beirut for a second night Sunday.
Charlie Kadado, editor of Lebanese Examiner, which has a mailing address in Troy, said the ongoing crisis could result in a “major political disaster” and that international governments should be watching Lebanon closely.
The solidarity event will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the hall at 4337 Maple in Dearborn, home to one of the largest concentrations of Arab-Americans outside the Middle East.
“Lebanon is wobbling on the edge of dysfunction,” Kadado said in an email Sunday night. “The government has failed its people and for the first time in many years, its people are finally reacting strongly.”
Kadado said he has covered the trash crisis in Beirut and earlier protests in the city, which have now escalated into intense clashes and police violence. Kadado returned to the United States last week.
He said security forces threatened to detain him after he recorded the first evidence of police misconduct in Beirut two weeks ago.
“Security forces are reacting to orders from the political elite, and citizens are legitimately tired of it,” Kadado said. “It’s important to watch these events closely over the next couple of days.”
Lebanese Red Cross spokesman George Kattaneh told Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television channel that the violence over the weekend wounded 44 people who required hospital care, while some 200 others received medical treatment on the spot. A police statement said protesters wounded 30 police officers, one of whom was seriously hurt.
The chaos continued into the night as police battled masked youths who set up barricades in Beirut’s downtown and near the blue-domed Mohammad al-Amin Mosque in Martyrs’ Square.
At first, the protest began peacefully, with thousands angered over Lebanon’s political deadlock protesting. Garbage began piling up on the streets after the capital’s main landfill was closed a month ago. An online group calling itself “You Stink!” and other civil society groups organized the rallies, calling on Lebanese to join them in a revolt against political corruption.
Protesters now are demanding that the country’s top politicians resign, saying they are not fit to rule to country. Salam, Lebanon’s prime minister, said in a news conference earlier Sunday that if this Thursday’s Cabinet meeting is not productive, “then there is no need for the council of ministers.”
Lebanon has a sectarian power-sharing system that ensures equal representation between the country’s main religious sects. The arrangement often leads to complete paralysis, though Lebanon has been relatively calm amid regional instability. A resignation by Salam would risk plunging the country into further chaos.
Lebanon managed to survive the Arab Spring uprisings that toppled Arab dictators, the onslaught by the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq and the fallout from 1.2 million Syrian refugees now straining its economy.
But political disputes have kept the country without a president for more than a year. Parliament has extended its own term twice and has not convened because lawmakers differ on whether they can continue working before voting for a president.