Mr. Sadler always shouts for dramatic emphasis; I suspect he has a drinking problem.
Incidentally, CNN never panned across the full span of the demonstration, but showed either Riad el Solh Square or that dirt patch south of Martyrs Square. And that miserable dreary-voiced Hala Gorani was flown in just for the occasion.
Upon my return to Beirut this afternoon, I walked from my home in Achrafiye to downtown. The streets in Rmeil were completely abandoned. Did the Christians all leave for the mountain again, or are they perhaps attending the sit-in under the FPM banner? I noticed that the Michel Aoun banner near Cinema Sofil has been torched anew. Many of the cars in Gemmayze discreetly performed the Lebanese Forces anthem with their car horns, while teenagers waving orange and Lebanese flags tore past on their motor scooters. The Internal Security Forces were busy lining the side streets with pink tape for tomorrow’s marathon, which will run right through the protest. Unless the Syrian-Iranian axis conspires to sabotage Beirut’s main athletic attraction again…
The army has cordoned off Martyrs’ Square, which is apparently reserved exclusively for protesters with stocks in Solidere. The area south and west of the Al-Amin mosque—from the Fouad Chehab highway to the Grand Serail-- is occupied by the protesters. On Day 2 of the open-ended sit-in, they are still present in the tens of thousands. [Apparently this evening, the streets are again swollen with hundreds of thousands of demonstrators.] The opposition pitched white and black tents in the valet parking lots, which are ordinarily full of fancy cars.
Protestors camping out last night in Solidere (hat tip)
A carnival-like atmosphere prevails. The average age of the mostly male crowd is fifteen or sixteen. The adults look tired, as do most of the Hezbollah and FPM security staff. They sit around on plastic chairs smoking narghileh, drinking coffee and eating kaak and fried chicken, while the kids – seemingly infatigable—tear up and down the street, waving flags, jumping up and down, and cheering. The FPM supporters get a real kick out of joining in cheers of “Ali, Ali, Ali”. It smells of fried chicken and stale sweat. A man sat down on the pavement to change his socks; another brushed his teeth from a water fountain that has been set up to accommodate those who camped out overnight.
In a desperate attempt to taint the protestors as hordes of brainwashed Shia, the pro—government media claimed that Christian participation was scant, because the all-powerful (and not so horny) Patriarch Sfeir commanded Christians to stay home. But I saw thousands of men and women sporting orange shawls and waving the flags of the Free Patriotic Movement. Were they Hezbollah followers in disguise? Very unlikely. I also saw dozens of people wearing orange scarves with Nasrallah’s silhouette printed above the Aounist (Nike) symbol. Beat that, Saatchi & Saatchi.
The road leading up to the besieged Grand Serail is surrounded by razor wire, jeeps, tanks and a massive military presence. I could see security staff on the roof of the Prime Minister’s residence. Saniora must not be getting much sleep. Perhaps Doctor Fatfat prescribed him some tranquilizers.
A few US newspapers reported that protesters shouted, “God, Nasrallah and the suburbs”. Now “the Dahiyeh” does indeed translate as “the suburbs”, but that must conjure up something quite hilarious in the American mind. It’s akin to New Yorkers shouting, “God, Rabbi Shlomo and Westchester”. I also noticed that the western media were pleasantly surprised by how “peaceful” the rally was. Here’s some advice to foreign reporters covering the events in Lebanon: Stop listening to the hysterical propaganda emanating from the prime ministerial mansion. And perhaps it is worth noting that yesterday’s demonstration was more peaceful than last week’s flag fest. Nobody tore up posters and trampled on portraits.
And Saniora, Hariri and Jumblatt are just further discrediting their claim to legitimate rule by invoking the support they enjoy from the corrupt Arab dictators and that clown John Bolton. Their refusal to acknowledge this popular display of discontent ought to put the final nail in the coffin of the sanctimonious “Cedar Revolution”.
Having said all this, the protests can’t last forever. Saniora’s complexion will resemble that of Michael Jackson if he stays holed up in his compound any longer, even if he is under a lot of pressure from the White House to stand firm. Perhaps Jeff Feltman can donate some of those lights that emulate artificial sunlight. We wouldn’t want him to get depressed or sick of the constant company of his loyal cabinet members. Perhaps they are playing poker, as I write, and taking swigs from a flask of whisky, in between rounds of prayer administered by the Sunni Mufti.
Something will have to give rather soon. It doesn’t take the sight of more than a few dozen Shia protesters to keep the glamour class away from downtown Beirut. And since when is downtown the heart and soul of the Lebanese economy? Aren’t the super nightclubs and nail salons still open? If they are really concerned about the economy, then the ruling coalition will have to give in to the opposition’s demands and hold new elections. I wonder how much cash Hariri will dole out to the electorate this time around. Enough to purchase a Play Station 3?
In the meantime, the Internal Security Forces are being beefed up, their ranks filled with loyal Sunnis and Christians willing and capable of taking on Hezbollah.