We Are Not Sugar
How men, women and children stood their ground against the Lebanese Army.
The Lebanese constitution contains a clause stating that mass protests lasting at or longer than eight days officially delegitimize the government. This language was likely written as a fail safe, predicting such a mass uprising would not be likely.
Tomorrow, October 24th, is day eight.
The Lebanese army is out en masse. The images are paralyzing. Protesters woke up this morning across the nation. In Zouk and Jal el Dib, they slept on the ground, in tents, in cars. It began to rain through the night.
“Bring the rain,” said a protester. “ We‘re not sugar. We won’t dissolve.”
Soldiers approached thin crowds just waking in Jal el Dib and began to corral and cut the people off from one another. Groups of people in civilian clothing are engulfed by a phalanx of soldiers.
We watch as men in camouflage openly approach news media and cover their cameras, ordering them to stop filming.
They don’t stop.
The army squeezes the small, sleepy contingent in Jal el Dib up against the protest stage draped in tarp from the rain. I can see men and old women alike approaching soldiers and screaming at them. We are told the government is bringing in bulldozers to move the cars.
In Zouk, protesters have swelled in numbers and dragged a new barricade across the roadway. The soldiers fight to tear it down. The people become a huge wave and push into the army, driving the ranks in two.
I am in tears in front of the tv, and just as I am filled with fear that the movement could die today, the crowd raises every flag they have, and they begin to clap and cheer, shouting and smiling, as a burgeoning amoeba of soldiers works to engulf them.
They begin singing the Lebanese national anthem.
People are lying on the ground, refusing to leave. Some have been kicked, dragged and beaten.
Now, hundreds fo people have turned to thousands. They have descended on Jal el Dib and Zouk, hooking arms and lying on the highway. Samy Gemayel is wearing a black t-shirt, waving his arms and encouraging everyone to close in tight and sit or lie down.
The army is now wearing riot gear.
The people are arm in arm, sealed tight and on their feet. The news media has made its way right there on the ground with the crowd. People are chanting, “Sowra!”
Prime Minister Saad Hariri disclosed a list of reforms on Monday. People have spat it down as fodder for even more indignance, more rage.
“Kilon yanni kilon!”
All of them means all of them. They must resign.
The people have made their way to the stage and turned on the PA. Now they are playing music and everyone has broken into song.
The men, women and kids in the streets now outnumber the soldiers, as people have swarmed to this north-south corridor to support the effort against their own army. In Jal el Dib, Soldiers have been pushed back to the roadside. In Zouk, the mass of people is getting squeezed as the crowd pushes back against the army. They are heaving back and forth, at once being carried by the force and crushed into one another. I watch as two soldiers reach down and pull a little girl out of the fray, following their instinct to protect the most vulnerable. There are armed soldiers visibly crying, crumbling under the stress of having to fight against the people they are supposed to serve.
And why does the army support the government? When will they strip themselves of their berets, chevrons and weapons and join the rightful side?
Of course, if a scene of such rapture were to occur, they would be court martialed.
Thirty years after the Taif Accords which clumsily sealed up the Civil War, the Lebanese people have had enough. They want an end to the sectarian politics which have only served to hog tie economic reform and enrich those who hold all the strings.
For now, the people have won Zouk and Jal el Dib. They are soaked and exhausted, but reinforcements arrive by the minute.
They want to see the dawn of day eight.