Whoever thought that the protest bubble would burst after a few hours was wrong. Premier Hariri gave government partners a 72-hour deadline to restart with greater vigour, or perhaps just to take time: today the police are deployed with greater caution. While there are many troublemakers, they are visibly prepared to spark off riots and shatter shop windows to disrupt the legitimacy and credibility of the protests that most participants want to be civilized. Speaking on national television Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, raised voice against those who want to bring down the government, while all institutionalised parties seem defenceless before those who are challenging them with the force of naivety. Political parties are not quite sure how to respond to Hariri’s ultimatum, or perhaps they all support the attempt to deflate the bubble of protests.
Also revolts have their own pace: after a night’s rest, or rather a morning’s rest, and a good breakfast, protestors take to the streets again, but perhaps their intention is to feel alive, as a country, as a people, regardless of the end result obtained by the crowds. As a people they unquestionably have their own beauty, their own strength. Of course, amidst the ocean of smiles and the mischievous waving of flags, there are also the sneers of those determined to take advantage of the situation or ride the tiger: they are the ones to be wary of, not the demonstrators.
Much more than the policemen who earn 560 dollars a month, and who if the lira currency depreciated would lose 20-30 percent of their already meagre purchasing power, since they are paid in Lebanese Liras.
The flow of people grows, crowds arrive from the east (the Christians) and from the west (the Muslims), wearing different attires but with the same energy in their eyes. Some of them carry bins or ripped down metal grilles to strengthen the barricades. There is a plethora of flags and masks against the smoke, veiled women arriving with more veiled women and children and grandparents and fathers and mothers. Some people protest against Hezbollah and others against Bassil, the bold son-in-law of President Aoun and Foreign Minister.
But most of all there is a non-political, non-partisan population, for these people are engaging in politics now, the polis belongs to them.
Slogans and songs blend together and are incomprehensible even to the Arabs, but they are like music from the crowd, with a syncopated rhythm but with a melody of its own. People smile when they see the reporter taking notes. There is trust, this is a place of trust, a rare commodity nowadays. Some boys are cleaning up the wreckage caused by thugs with brooms they brought from home. The muezzin prays from the minarets of the Great Mosque, followed by the bells of the adjacent Maronite cathedral. Paradoxical Lebanon, useless trying to understand it according to our Western standards.
From Nigeria arrives the appeal of Maronite Patriarch Béchara Raï, who called on the Lebanese government to declare “a state of economic emergency” and “find solutions to prevent the breakdown of the State.” “Let us pray for Lebanon, let us pray that God may touch the conscience of the leaders and help them find necessary and rapid solutions to this economic and social crisis”. The Patriarch voices the suffering of the people, he speaks of a hunger crisis, “a threat to the lives of the Lebanese people for the first time since the famine of 1914.”
“While the last crisis was caused by the stranger, the sad thing today is that this crisis was sparked off from inside”, he said.
Elderly people, youths and children are taking to the streets. With their diversity they have demonstrated that they are a people, and together they are asking to live with dignity.