It started with the #YouStink campaign launched at the beginning of August by a group of civil society activists and bloggers. Their original demand was a permanent, sustainable solution to the garbage crisis, as mountains of trash were growing across the Lebanese capital and the country’s cabinet was struggling with police deadlocks over petty issues. But when security forces became violent with demonstrators on 22 August, the number of protesters and demands grew. Several civil society groups demonstrated in Martyrs’ Square at one of the biggest demonstrations Lebanon has seen since the Cedar Revolution. NOW looks at their demands and their social orientation.
You Stink was the first movement to take to the streets in the context of the Lebanese trash crisis. Its organizers describe it as a grass roots movement created as a response to the government’s inability to solve the ongoing trash crisis in a sustainable manner. The movement is pushing for:
1. Sustainable solutions provided by several environmental experts with a focus on returning to a municipality-level system while implementing nationwide recycling.
The organizers of the movement — most of them social media activists — called for the first big protest on 8 August and launched an online donation campaign, providing a full report of the expenses. Starting with 8 August, the You Stink campaigner staged a sit-in in front of the Lebanese government building in Riad al-Solh Square.
The most dramatic development was the 22 August demonstration, when Lebanese security forces retaliated with force against the protesters. The next day, clashes with riot police resulted in severe damage in downtown Beirut. Violent protesters were accused of having been sent by political parties to infiltrate and discredit the anti-trash movement.
By 29 August, the movement split. In addition to calling for an end to the trash crisis, the remaining You Stink campaigners called for the election of a new president.
On 1 September, activists stormed the Ministry of Environment, demanding the resignation of Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk.
We Want Accountability
We Want Accountability is a splinter group from the original You Stink movement. It was created by activists linked to the Lebanese Communist Party, the People’s Movement, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and other independent activists who did not feel You Stink adequately represented them.
They say they want to address the cause, not just the effects. Their demands are:
1. To nationalize the waste sector and stop public bidding; to make trash disposal a municipal responsibility
2. Accountability of the security forces for violence against protesters
3. Dropping the charges against the arrested protesters
4. The right to protest and of freedom of expression
5. A new secular electoral law with Lebanon as one district
6. The resignation of the Lebanese cabinet.
On 29 August the We Want Accountability group gathered at the Interior Ministry. Although the group was smaller than others, their chants gathered many supporters. The group left Martyrs’ Square and moved the protest to the Grand Serail in Riad al-Solh Square.
To The Streets
To The Streets declared itself against corruption as well as against the Lebanese political establishment — both March 8 and March 14 alike. They call the politicians the “ruling elite” and want radical change in the Lebanese political system.
The activist group became famous for launching the “Kelloun ya’ni kelloun” campaign (All of them means all of them). Their most controversial banner drew criticism for depicting Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, among other politicians accused of corruption.
The groups’ demands:
1. A solution to the waste crisis, taking into consideration environmental and health standards
2. An investigation into security forces’ crackdown on protestors in Riad al-Solh square
3. The resignation of Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk for the crackdown on the protests
4. The resignation of Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk, who is directly responsible for the waste crisis
5. Holding the Ministry of Energy accountable for corruption and waste of public money and the deterioration of basic electricity services
On 29 August supporters of To The Streets movement gathered at the entrance to Gemmayzeh and marched towards Martyrs’ Square.
Smaller or regional groups
Akkar is not a Dump was created to slam a plan by the cabinet to transfer garbage from Beirut to North Lebanon in exchange for $100 million in development projects.
22 August Revolution is a splinter group of the You Stink movement created to express a wider range of demands. The organizers believe that “a revolution does not need the You Stink campaign to motivate it or order it to take to the street or withdraw from it.” The movement calls for protests related not only to the garbage crisis, but also to take down the political system. The group is calling for a rally on Friday, 4 September.
Youth Against the System also reject sectarianism and demand basic rights such as water, electricity, sanitation, health care, a new electoral law, and an end to corruption.
The People Want also demands the release of all detained protesters, accountability of security forces for the crackdown on protests, the resignation of Nohad Machnouk and Mohammad Machnouk, the restoration of waste management to municipal administration, the prosecution of high corruption cases, and that a date be set for parliamentary elections.
Myra Abdallah tweets @myraabdallah