In contrast to the street violence earlier this week and harsh crackdown on young protestors, it was all kisses and praises for police– at least for a few brief moments during last night’s rally at Riad Solh square.
“I hope everyone will film this,” one activist shouts out. “Because people think we are against each other. They don’t see we are all in this together!” Another praises God and pulls the supervising officer’s head in for a kiss.
Riot police had previously opened fire on the crowd with rubber bullets, water cannons, tear gas and live rounds in air. At least one young activist has been critically wounded and dozens others arrested amid street violence, shattered storefronts and vandalism of state property.
But the scene last night was far tamer with the water cannons silent and officers observing quietly on the sidelines as a group of rowdy boys encircled and began cheering them. Earlier in the day some of the same boys proudly admitted to me that they had been at the heart of the civil disobedience in previous days, having been chased and shot at by security forces. With little facial hair, most were barely adolescent and said they lived in the nearby slums of Khandak Ghamiq and the southern suburbs, having faced severe shortages of water and electricity, income and medical care ( i.e not just the problems of garbage collection that have brought out middle class activists.)
Toward the end of the video, one boy shouts out: “See we’ve made a truce!”
More videos to come… (as the infamously slow Lebanese internet allows.)
UPDATE: Here’s a second video, moments later, as protestors chant “God bless you, oh policeman”
At the very end one protestor shouts out: “Don’t shoot us, oh policeman”
I was on my way to drop off my recycling at Ziad’s recycling plant near the port of Beirut when I noticed this nasty river.
Workers nearby told me all the sewers of Beirut flow through here. It’s literally a raging river of fifth:
And the smell standing here is vomit inducing.
This an aerial view of the port area, and as you can see, the brown waste is visible from space:
Here’s a close up of the canal in my photo. The area is known as Karantina and the canal is just next to the slaughterhouse.
This is my second post about sewage flowing from Beirut’s coast. I previously documented a big brown spill off the coast of Khalde, near the airport. So how many sewers flow right into the sea from Beirut? And why is this wastewater not treated?
Equally important, why isn’t this story on TV more often? Isn’t it more important than all the politicians visits and press conferences that dominate the evening news? Do any of them have anything to say about sewage?
I don’t usually do lists, but with all the awful news I have been covering lately about demolitions and people getting beaten up, I thought I’d lighten up a little this holiday season. So here are some of the strangest Christmas displays I have seen around town. Some are actually kind of cool, others are completely awful, but all are pretty unconventional.
1.) Suspended East European dancers:
Lebanon loves East European dancers. They fill our variety television shows, and now they are getting us into the spirit of giving… with skin tight outfits. Did I mention that they dance in two glass balls suspended from the mall’s roof?
The guy at the sunglass hut seems thankful:
2.) Flying trees
Lebanon’s newest mall, Beirut City Center, wants a piece of the competition.
Not only are these plastic trees airborne, they also double as… snowflakes?
3. Merry Christmas and F*** u from St. Georges:
Tis the season to fight the power.
Many of you know the long-standing battle between Beirut’s oldest hotel and the country’s largest company, Solidere. The St. Georges owner has been fighting the real estate giant for several years, arguing that Solidere is using its political connections to prevent him from reopening his famous hotel. (You can read more about the land conflict in an Al Jazeera piece I wrote last year. )
The St. Georges “Stop Solidere” sign has been up for at least 6 years, serving as the most visible form of resistance toward the multibillion dollar company. But this is the first time I’ve seen it decorated for the holidays.
4.) Almaza tree
Lebanon’s best known brew works great for a tree the whole family can enjoy.
5. Junior Mafia
Who doesn’t love Lebanese mobsters weaving in and out of traffic with their $200,000 sports cars? Now their children can learn to show off at a very earlier age. They even offer black-tinted windows for all the junior VIPs. Quick, somebody sell them low number vanity plates to make this gift perfect.
This ABC kiosk says it all really.
7.) Christmas tank
Nothing says Christmas like a Vietnam-era Armored Personnel Carrier parked outside a shopping mall.
Checking to see who has been naughty or nice with a 50 caliber machine gun?
8.) Year round tree
Call it municipal incompetence or call it endless holiday spirit. When I noticed the Naccache neighborhood still had its 2013 tree up last September, I realized it probably wouldn’t be coming down in any time soon.
9.) Fake snow flake machine
If flying trees were not enough (see number 2) City Center mall is also making it rain with fake flakes, which fall gracefully on its 5 story tree:
10.) LAU: Blinded by the light
The Lebanese American University wants to make sure you know what time of year it is. In fact, they are recreating the light of the stars that led the three wise men to baby Jesus. But they would probably need sunglasses if they stumbled onto LAU campus today.
Despite the rampant and strange consumerist displays, it wouldn’t be right to ignore many folks in Lebanon that have truly embraced the sprit of giving this season.
Such as the kids who volunteered with the soup kitchen Food Blessed, who were taking donations at a Badaro Christmas fair: