Last year, we were allowed inside Beirut’s only major park for just one day. This year, (tomorrow May 16) we will be standing outside at the gates demanding to be let back in. This because the municipality of Beirut–and specifically the mayor–has repeatedly claimed the public is not ready, not clean or too wild.
Many Beirut residents beg to differ. They say the people need a park and all the park needs is a simple maintenance crew with regular cleaning schedule. They also question why the mayor has failed to deliver on his promise (recorded on youtube three years ago) to open the park in 2012. The municipality has plenty of money (at least $1 billion in reserves) to get this done.
Yet while they have been making excuses, the park remains shut. Here is what we have been missing:
The park is so big its difficult to sum it up in a few pictures:
There’s a botanical garden toward the middle:
Where last year, the activists organized yoga sessions:
There’s a great sandpit, where kids can play:
And so many quiet corners to enjoy:
I was happy to see families defying the municipality’s ridiculous signs prohibiting people from sitting in the grass:
Interestingly, we noticed a new Range Rover pull into the park despite the fact that it’s supposedly closed to people traffic, let alone cars.
They were taking wedding pictures:
It seems the park is only open to special VIPs, including Western foreigners as one tourist found out:
The guards were blunt about letting (white) foreigners in because Lebanese as well as Palestinians and Syrians are uncivilized, “stupid” and “disgusting”
Do you think this space should be open to the public? Then come join the peaceful protest tomorrow at 2PM. They will not hear you unless you make your voice heard.
Also, the activists request you bring a blonde wig to look like a “foreigner” in protest of the discriminatory–and crudely Orientalist– entrance policies.
UPDATE: Citizens gather outside, army and police block the entrance. See pictures.
UPDATE 2: Protest success. After much wrangling and phone calls, municipal police opened the gates and let protestors inside. But no cameras were allowed in for some odd reason.