Leaders of Lebanon’s so-called You Stink movement have called on demonstrators to gather in the streets of Beirut for anti-government protests Wednesday, the Daily Star reported. The rallies are to happen alongside a planned national dialogue on the state of the country’s embattled government.
Activists announced the plans for the demonstrations at a press conference Saturday. A video of the announcement was posted on Facebook.
The You Stink movement gained wide attention in August, when protesters took to the streets to express outrage over the government’s inability to remove garbage piled up on Beirut’s streets. It has vowed to continue its rallies until Mohammed Mashnuq resigns as Lebanon’s environment minister. So far, Mashnuq has resigned from the task force seeking a solution to the trash problem, but he has refused to step down as environment minister.
What began as demonstrations over public sanitation has evolved into a fully fledged, multipronged public rebuke of the Lebanese government, which has come under fire for its ineffectual and purportedly corrupt rule. Encouraged by Lebanon’s Free Patriotic Movement, a Christian organization unaffiliated with the You Stink movement, protesters numbering in the thousands called Friday for parliamentary elections and a new Lebanese president to be selected by popular vote, Agence France-Presse reported. Lebanon has not had a president since Michel Suleimon left office in May 2014, and it has not held parliamentary elections since 2009.
In a bid to allay public criticism, Nabih Berri, Lebanon’s speaker of parliament, called for a national dialogue aimed at addressing the government’s struggling programs. The first round in this dialogue is set for Sept. 9. Critics argue Berri’s apparent concession was actually an attempt to draw attention away from the You Stink movement.
Separately, the You Stink movement, which is nondenominational, has called for new elections, a revamped system for dealing with Beirut’s garbage issue and an end to violence against anti-government demonstrators. This week, a group of You Stink representatives vowed to continue a hunger strike until Mashnuq resigns.
The You Stink protests turned violent last Tuesday, when a group of demonstrators staged a sit-in at the environment ministry. Lebanese police forcibly removed the protesters, resulting in at least two injuries, as the Associated Press reported.