Since the early morning hours, armored vehicles surrounded Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s Beirut offices and hundreds of police officers took up positions in the area as part of an unprecedented security effort in advance of the mass protest.
Protestors en route to Beirut (Photo: AFP)
Hizbullah and their political allies are demanding the establishment of a “national unity government” in which Shiite Muslims have at least one-third representation.
If such a government is installed, Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah will have veto power on important issues facing the Lebanese government, as Lebanese law demands a majority of two-thirds to pass decisions – including the decision to topple the government. As well, if one-third of lawmakers resign, the government automatically collapses.
Lebanese security deploys around Beirut (Photo: AP)
The decision to take to the streets Friday was postponed due to last week’s assassination of Lebanon’s Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel. The decision was not accepted as it was announced Thursday by Nasrallah.
Opposition loyalists expressed their joy by firing guns into the air in the southern Beirut neighborhood of Dahiya, Hizbullah’s sanctuary in the capital city.
The opposition did not request a license for the rally from the Lebanese government, claiming that it was “an illegal government and those present will only be convening, and not protesting,” Hizbullah spokesman Hussein Rahal told the London based Arabic newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat.
Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) General Secretary Anton Mukhaybar said that the opposition already informed the government of the protest through an advertisement it published naming the location of the protest.
Armored vehicles secure Siniora's office (Photo: AP)
Rahal added, “The opposition is coordinated with the police and with security forces in all its movements. There is no need to worry about problems.”
Thousands of young people were already recruited to keep order during the protest. Their job would be to prevent protestors from harming the public and damaging public and private property. Thousands others were responsible for the logistics of the protest.
Opposition members including Hizbullah, the Shiite Amal movement, and Michel Aoun loyalists, all agreed on an official name for their political camp Thursday; the National Lebanese Opposition Forces.
That was the name they would use in every protest operation which they said would “not stop until the demands, starting with a national unity government, are fulfilled.”
Thousands have already made their ways towards Beirut, and the rally will apparently reach the magnitude of a similar protest two months ago. A-Sharq al-Awsat reported the Michel Aoun’s followers prepared 5,000 party flags to distribute among supporters during the rally.
The rally Friday is apparently not intended to be a one-time event, but rather the first in a series of protest activities. About 5,000 participants are expected to remain in the squares, and seven large tents which hold 120 people were set up in the areas.