Lebanese keep up protests despite emergency measures

BEIRUT (AFP) – Tens of thousands of Lebanese protesters kept the country on lockdown on Tuesday, rallying for a sixth consecutive day to demand new leaders despite the government’s adoption of an emergency economic rescue plan.

The demonstrations which was initially sparked by a proposed tax on WhatsApp and other messaging apps quickly grew into an unprecedented cross-sectarian street mobilisation against the political class.

The movement has spread to all major cities and into Lebanon’s vast diaspora.

The Cabinet was spurred into passing wide-ranging economic reforms on Monday, but the move failed to win over protesters, who now seem bent on removing the entire political elite, which they see as corrupt. Tuesday’s protests initially seemed smaller than on previous days, but they swelled in the afternoon, with thousands gathering in central Beirut.

Protester Abdel Amir Ramadan, a 73-year-old from Beirut’s southern suburbs, lamented the state of the country.

“Lebanon used to be the Paris of the Middle East. Now it’s the dumping ground of the Middle East,” he said.

He was unconvinced by the government’s rescue plan, announced on Monday by Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

“They have been in power for years, why did they just wake up to these reforms now?” Ramadan asked.

“Today, the decisions are not in their hands. They are in the hands of the people.”

Anti-government protesters shout slogans against the Lebanese government in Beirut, Lebanon. PHOTO: AP