Metro Detroiters show support for Lebanon protesters

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Metro Detroiters with ties to Lebanon gathered Tuesday night in Dearborn for a solidarity rally spurred by that country’s ongoing trash crisis, police clashes and government corruption.

“We’re not asking for change, we’re demanding it,” said Charlie Kadado, editor of the Lebanese Examiner and spokesman for a newly formed coalition seeking changes that include solutions to the current Lebanon’s trash crisis as well as water and electrical problems and greater protection of human rights.

The event, which drew about 100 supporters at the Lebanese American Heritage Club, came as Hezbollah ministers and allies walked out of an emergency Lebanese Cabinet meeting meant to discuss the country’s worsening garbage crisis.

The deepening crisis has observers worried that the tiny nation could plunge into chaos with more violence. Anger boiled over last weekend against a government so dysfunctional it can’t hold elections or pick a president, much less deliver basic services. Thousands protested in the streets, and police fired tear gas and water cannons at the demonstrators. The two days of chaos wounded dozens.

“It shows the Lebanese society to some extent catching up with the rest of the Arab world in terms of popular protests against the central government,” said Rami Khouri, a senior fellow at the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut.

The protests in Lebanon led John Sader of St. Clair Shores to join the Dearborn rally.

“I completely understand where they’re coming from,” he said, holding an American flag alongside a red, white and green Lebanese one. “It’s just another way the government has failed them. I sympathize with the protesters and want them to know the Lebanese diaspora is with them. …

“I feel like everyone is tired of the political bickering in Lebanon. They can’t agree on anything. There are so many different political forces at work.”

Kadado said his group plans to send a petition citing the coalition’s call for change to the Consulate General of Lebanon in Detroit as well as meet with U.S. lawmakers in a bid to push for more action overseas.

“If Lebanon goes under, other countries go under,” he said.

Charein Faraj of Dearborn Heights, recently back from Lebanon, said she hoped the outcries in Michigan over the conditions in that country eventually impact politics there.

“I do believe that it’s time for change,” she said.

Associated Press contributed.