Opposition to the law, known as the Orthodox-Maronite-Gathering (or as Qifa Nabki calls it, the OMG law) immediately gained momentum on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #AgainstOrthodoxLaw.
In a nutshell, the law forces voters to elect candidates of their own religion and is supported by the current ruling coalition due to a combination of qualms over unfair districting in the previous law and a deeply cynical reading of extreme sectarian representation as acceptable considering the existing sectarian framework in Lebanese politics.
So after a couple of hours on Facebook and Twitter, a crowd of around a couple hundred from various groups such as #TakeBackParliament showed up downtown not far from the lawmakers’ chamber.
It began on the sidewalk (top photo).
Then a couple of activists decided to stand in the middle of main cobblestone street. “Everyone sit down,” one called out.
Suddenly the street was full of activists, and the police, who had been watching on the sidelines, started to get a little nervous. Cars began honking, and some of the activists were arguing over the move.
Finally a driver shouted that he had a sick person in the back and had get to hospital. After much internal haggling, the protestors relented. But as soon as the car passed through, they reassumed their position sitting on the street pavement.
And when they did, a horde of photographers stood in front of them taking pictures, unconsiocusly forming a virtual wall against oncoming traffic behind them.
Clearing the road now seemed hopeless, and dozens more filled the street.
The police were forced to give up and cut off the road….
Diverting traffic to Foch Street:
But it wasn’t long before the protestors followed them there too:
Lining both sides:
Soon they had formed a human median:
Slowing traffic down to a trickle, without actually blocking another road:
Apparently worried this could get out of hand, the army was called in for back-up. Four personnel carriers showed up and parked under the nearby “Le Gray” ultra luxury hotel:
But the protestors continued:
They bore some interesting placards poking fun at the sectarian election law, saying it would split Lebanon into separate religious kingdoms.
Such as “The Republic of Baalbeck and Hermel”:
The fiefdom of the Shouf mountains:
The Greek Orthodox Republic of Koura:
And some less subtle ones:
The center placard references another stipulation of the new law which calls for expanding parliment seats from 128 to 134.
The troops stood by as protestors chanted in Arabic: “It’s raining, it’s pouring, they’ve added six more thieves,” and “They are splitting up the country… we want a secular government.”
But the security forces didn’t have to worry. After an hour and half, a lead protestor said: “Thanks everyone for coming. We’re going to go now, but we will keep you posted on the next event.” And after a few cheers, everyone started to make their way home.
Here’s youtube clip, explaining some of the signs used in the rally.
It was definitely small but there was no shortage of creativity.
*I’ve changed the original headline which read “anti-Orthodox rally” so as not to offend anyone with my abbreviation! Thanks Mustapha.