'You Stink' campaigners gear up for more Lebanon demos

Activists say just how much time, effort goes in to organizing rally in Beirut’s flashpoint Martyrs’ Square

'You Stink' campaigners gear up for more Lebanon demos

World Bulletin / News Desk

Martyr’s Square in Lebanese capital Beirut is gearing up to host more demonstrations this week organized by the popular “You Stink” campaign.

The demonstrations, held to protest the city’s ongoing sanitation crisis, began one month ago with only four people and later grew to include tens of thousands last weekend.

Coordinating an event involving so many people requires immense time and effort.

“We’re meeting the various groups involved, discussing political needs, using social media, answering phone calls,” campaign member Assaad Thebian said. 

PEACEFUL

As many Lebanese fear the protests may be accompanied by riots – as happened in recent days – campaign organizers have trained 500 volunteers to ensure the event remains peaceful.

Nevertheless, they still hold the government responsible for protesters’ overall safety. 

“There are several groups at work; we have a lot of volunteers and activists,” campaign member Marwan Malouf said. “They will do what they can, but the government has the responsibility not to create incidents or use unwarranted force against protesters.”

He went on to note that “none of those [security personnel] who shot or beat protesters [during earlier demonstrations] have been held to account”.

Activists believe that a campaign of this magnitude – without any political backing – requires a platform capable of spreading their message across the country and beyond.

Years ago, this was impossible.

But now, Maalouf said, thanks to social media, within seconds of posting the #youstink hashtag, “millions of people in Montreal, Paris and Washington DC were able to participate in the protests”.

When asked who – if anyone – was funding “You Stink”, Thebian described the campaign as “crowd funded”.

“We have asked people to fund us through the indiegogo application,” he explained, “which allows people to make donations of $10, $15 or $200, depending on how much they can afford.”

Some of these contributions, he added, “can be substantial”.

DEMANDS

“You Stink” demands the resignation of Environment Minister Mohamed Machnouk – who, campaigners say, has mismanaged the sanitation crisis – and Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk for using what they describe as undue force against protesters during earlier demonstrations.

The campaign also demands that the finances of Lebanon’s municipalities be freed up so that they can manage sanitation in their own jurisdictions.   

Maalouf says he has already been in contact with a number of municipal chiefs.

“They have a role to play in this because the money that has been allocated for them [for sanitation] is going to private companies,” he said. “This money should go back to the municipalities.”

At the end of the day, Maalouf said, most Lebanese were “fed up with this political class”.

The ongoing sanitation crisis, he added, “served to show us just how stinky the system had actually become”.

Last Mod: 31 Ağustos 2015, 16:54
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