The changing Gemayel testimony: What did he “see”?

The changing Gemayel testimony: What did he “see”?

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I’ve watched several television interviews where MP Gemayel describes “an unprovoked attack” on his convoy by a crowd of people armed with “sticks and rocks.” 

But Gemayel has admitted he was not in the convoy at the time; it was parked on the street as he was having dinner in a nearby restaurant. 
So if he wasn’t at the scene, how does he know exactly what happened?
This question wasn’t asked by a single media outlet despite around a dozen activist videos that tell a different story: not a single rock or stick is visible in any of the footage shot by people on the scene.

But for some reason, Gemayel is ignoring this primary video source and sticking to his vague and somewhat outlandish second-hand account.

First he told MTV a crowd of 50 armed with sticks and rocks attacked his convoy. MTV tweeted the claim as fact, without any question of Gemayel’s source:

A group of men intercepted MP Nadim Gemayel’s convoy in Ashrafieh Mar Mikhael neighborhood, wounding one of his … http://t.co/Fcyc5oblYL
— MTV English News (@MTVEnglishNews) June 28, 2013

(Nahrnet also propagates the MP’s second-hand account as fact.)

But then Gemayel’s story changes slightly in this interview with Future TV English, saying 30 not 50 attacked his convoy:

“When you have 30 people attacking a convoy, it’s the minimum you can do by pulling out their weapons,” Gemayel said when asked about his bodyguards’ heavy-handed response.

“It’s clear that my guards were hit with stones and sticks,” Gemayel continues, adding: “I want to assure you that no one was hurt in any way possible.”

“I know that my security team did a very professional job without hurting anyone.”

But how does he “know” that? When asked if he was in the convoy at the time, Gemayel says he was at a “nearby” restaurant:

“I wasn’t in the car; the car was parked.”

Gemayel tells a similar account in this LBC interview, but now he has reduced the crowd size dramatically–  not 50, not 30, just “some individuals” (at 6:16)

“There was an attack on the car, but there was not even a slap in the face (from my guards)”

Again, Gemayel is certain of the circumstances, but what is his source and why does the number of attackers keep changing?

Numerous testimonies from eye-witnesses and videos of activists seem to tell a different story, one of activists being beaten, not armed bodyguards.

Instead of “attacking” the convoy, the activists were actually minding their own business in the Nasawiya cafe (a women’s and human rights association) and taking silly videos of each other or just lounging on couches and bean-bag chairs when Gemayel’s bodyguards show up and barge into their space:

The guards tell the young people to stop taking videos, and they go outside to see why.

Earlier that day, many had been protesting parliament’s cancellation of elections this year and were angry that this unconstitutional MP’s bodyguards were blocking the street and invading their space–very typical bodyguard behavior in Lebanon.

So they began repeating the chant of that day’s protest. “MPs go out, MPs go out, out with the thieves!”

The bodyguards react by screaming and cursing the protestors, telling them to get inside and cocking a weapon at (3:49), activists say.

We can also see that the number of young people is 15-20; they are unarmed–even jovial–far from the menacing crowd of “50 armed with sticks and rocks” as published earlier.

We can also see that the crowd is unarmed in this video taken from across the street around the same time.

In fact there is no sign of any rocks or sticks in the compilation clip (below) of almost a dozen videos from the scene. It’s also worth noting that Nasawiya is on a paved road and there is no dirt or rocks around.

And again, contrary to Gemayel’s statement that “there was not even a slap” from his guards, we can see what appears to be multiple slaps and blows (at 1:04):

The clip above also contains footage from the next day, when a number of those chanting against Gemayel’s armed guards were detained at the police station in Gemmayzeh.

A crowd of friends had gathered to demand their release when incredibly one of Gemayel’s bodyguards shows up again. The protestors spot him and try to block his way, but then he drives into the crowd and one young girl is partially run over. (I also captured this chilling moment in a video uploaded yesterday.)

The police at the station–there are about 15 of them watching the protestors at this point–do absolutely nothing and the young activists chase the vehicle with their cameras. One is then held at gunpoint by the passenger–a Lebanese security officer–who forces him to erase his footage.

Finally, the crowd surrounds the car, demanding justice until the driver is taken inside the station to jeers.

Following the days event’s the prominent human rights lawyer Nizar Saghieh, who had come to defend the activists who were all eventually freed, told Al Jadeed:

“Who could believe a women’s association attacked armed and trained body guards?”

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