Thousands of Lebanese flocked together Saturday in Tripoli to keep a protest movement alive in a city dubbed “the bride of the revolution.”
Despite its reputation for conservatism, impoverished Tripoli has emerged as a festive nerve center of anti-graft demonstrations across Lebanon since Oct. 17.
The movement has lost momentum in Beirut since the government resigned this week, but in the Sunni-majority city of Tripoli late Saturday, it was still going strong.
In the main square, protesters waved Lebanese flags and held aloft mobile phones as lights, before bellowing out the national anthem in unison, an AFP reporter said.
‘Everyone’ urged to go
“Everyone means everyone,” one poster read, reiterating a common slogan calling for all political leaders from across the sectarian spectrum to step down.
Many people had journeyed from other parts of the country to join in.
Ragheed Chehayeb, 38, said he had driven in from the central town of Aley.
“I came to Tripoli to stand by their side because they’re the only ones continuing the revolution,” he said.
Leila Fadl, 50, said she had traveled from the Shiite town of Nabatiyeh south of Beirut to show her support.
“We feel the demands are the same, the suffering is the same,” she said.
More than half of Tripoli residents live at or below the poverty line, and 26 percent suffer from extreme poverty, a U.N. study found in 2015.
On Tuesday, embattled Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his cabinet would step down.
But it was still unclear what a new government would look like and whether it would meet protesters’ demands that it include independent experts.
Roads and banks have reopened after nearly two weeks of nationwide paralysis.
Fahmy Karame, 49, called for a “rapid solution to the economic crisis.”
“We’re waiting for a government of technocrats,” he said.
In Beirut, hundreds protested Saturday evening after a day of rain.
“Down with the rule of the central bank,” they shouted at the tops of their lungs, clapping their hands near the institution’s headquarters.
Economic growth in Lebanon has stalled in recent years in the wake of repeated political crises, compounded by an eight-year civil war in neighboring Syria.