On the first anniversary of the port explosion, the Lebanese went to the vicinity of the crime scene and inside it. Some of them were calm, and some of them were angry. They unanimously agree that a year after the “crime” will not pass like this, but in the end, it ended despite all the confrontations and attempts to storm headquarters that the protesters consider a “den of corruption”, especially the House of Representatives, whose members have so far refused to lift the immunities of security and politicians involved in one way or another in causing the explosion.
A year has passed since the crime and nothing has changed, the truth is still absent, the people are still angry, and the power remains the same. Today was the day for many to express their sorrow and pain. What is remarkable is that the demands for change have disappeared or subsided from what they were two years ago during the protests, and the reason for this is the conviction of the Lebanese that no change will happen as long as the authority and those in power have not changed. Even the demands of the early parliamentary elections receded from the slogans that were raised today.
Since the noon hours, marches from more than one area of Beirut began to move towards the port and its surroundings. On the roads, the various elements of the security forces were deployed, from internal to the public to private. The army also attended. They blocked some roads in front of the protesters, especially those adjacent to buildings and security centers. The museum must mobilize the Public Security forces because a group of young people wrote on the walls of the directorate’s building “Let the immunities down” and posted pictures of Abbas Ibrahim, the director wanted for investigation and who refused to attend, like all those who are immune to the truth.
Another demonstration started in front of the Palace of Justice after protesters stood with some families of the August 4 victims, demanding justice. There were those who tried to stop them from crossing the road towards downtown Beirut to participate in the demonstration or the sit-in. From the forum, another march led to the port. Many came directly to Martyrs’ Square. Mahmoud, who comes from the south, says: “Why to waste time in celebrations that are neither presented nor delayed. We want revenge from them, and nothing will return our right but revenge. That is why I will not participate in what is happening in the port but express my objection and anger elsewhere. In front of the stronghold of the corrupt and criminals, any House of Representatives.
In front of the statue of the expatriate facing the crime scene was the assembly. People flock with their flags. Two young men on the roads from Electricité du Liban towards the port raised a sign that read “Your Immunities” and hung a shoe on it. A woman standing at the side of the road talking to herself and saying: “They killed us and they are still going on.” She seemed to be telling those around her how she was feeling but in fact, no one was close enough to hear. She was saying what she thought like many on the road. They talk out loud to themselves. They say phrases about revenge, anger, and hate, and they walk in different directions.
Suddenly, amid the crowds of protesters, the Beirut Fire Brigade’s convoy, which started from the barracks in Karantina, appears. A mechanism decorated by fellow victims of the regiment with pictures of Matt trying to put out the fire in Ward No. 12 before it explodes. Tears and pain, nothing more. The brother of the “martyr”, Jo Noun, holds the hand of his sister and his mother and walks in front of the vehicle, repeating: “Corrupt and criminals. You will fall and we will take revenge.” He turns to the top of the bridge, raises his hands, and starts clapping. Hundreds of those crowded on the bridge as they watched the people cross into the painful memory, applauding in honor of “the martyrs and the families of the victims.”
The procession crosses to the harbor entrance. There people broke up. Large numbers of army personnel block the entrance. Only the families of the victims are allowed to enter to participate in the symbolic mass. Whoever did not enter, he went directly to Martyrs’ Square, and then to the vicinity of the House of Representatives, and began to express his anger. In the meantime, few were interested in following what was happening inside the port and the words being said. The most prominent thing that happened was the repetition of the names of the victims of the explosion. So far, there is no official statistic on the final number of victims.
From the port, Patriarch Bechara Al-Rai said after the participants observed a minute of silence: “Some wanted the fourth of August to be a day of anger and demonstrations, but the divine words that we heard are the most effective, the surest, and the comforter of wounded hearts,” stressing that “all immunities fall before the blood of the victims and martyrs and those who He fears justice, condemns himself, and we are here to declare loyalty to Beirut.”
He added: “Our demand is truth and justice, and the earth will remain in turmoil in this spot until we know the truth of what happened in the port of Beirut, the explosion at Beirut post in Lebanon. We came to pray for Beirut, the bride of the Mediterranean and the city where religions meet, humbled between destruction and ruins, to light the torch of hope and the future, addressing the officials by saying: “Rise up immediately and form a government, but Unfortunately, there is no life for those who call, nor is it as if the people are starving, nor is a port exploded, nor is a country collapsing.”
On the way to the mass, the family of Ayman Noureddine, a captain in the Lebanese army who was also the victim of the explosion, was advancing slowly, the weight of the pain accumulating since they had lost Ayman. His mother cries and prays to God for revenge “who caused the loss of her son”. His sister, folded his uniform, put it in a box with his picture, and carried it to the port. Tired of all that she went through in the year since she lost her brother. She says: “A year ago, the pain was still the same, but rather increased. We will not rest until we know the truth. He loves life. Why would he go like this because of their corruption?”
Between this and that, a violent clash took place between a group affiliated with the Communist Party and a group of the Lebanese Forces Party in front of the latter’s headquarters in Gemmayzeh. A commotion because of a slogan chanted by a young communist, targeting Geagea, and the response was from the forces. Battles in which Molotov cocktails were used and ended with the injury of at least 15 people on both sides, including a young man in critical condition named Mazen Abu Zaid. On the road towards the center of the forces, young men rush through. They say they are “going to the center because the communists broke into it.” Later in the early hours of the night, the army was at the entrance to the center, and next to it were young men dressed in black with sticks in their hands. guarding!
Many slogans were raised by the demonstrators. “Your corruption will not pass”, “And I have a red line, your immunities do not.” A woman dressed in black and walking with a small group raised a sign that handwritten it, “Your Excellency, Your Excellency, Your Excellency, Your Excellency, the gallows is your end”, focusing on the first row of Hezbollah’s leadership and its Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, passing through Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and the most prominent share was for President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law, former Minister Gibran Bassil.
At the time when the shepherd was saying his word, its echoes reached Martyrs’ Square, especially the part where he criticized the anger. The response came in many forms. Rana from the Bekaa says: “Let him pray for the comfort of the souls of the martyrs and let us express our anger. We are not against prayer, even if we do not consider it to lead to a result, but let him and others stay away from what we want. They do not even feel what we suffer. Let them pray and let us pray for Our way, and she points to the stones that her comrades were carrying around the council to throw them at the security in an attempt to storm the square.”
In front of the southern entrance to the House of Representatives, the battles began early. Entire groups arrived directly there and started confronting them with security. They say that “these are protecting the corrupt, and basically their salaries are not enough for them for five days.” They shout at each other to get together after being thrown with tear gas by riot police. One of them starts chanting “revolution, revolution,” and dozens gather around him and they attack again and receive gas time after time. The army brings in the gunpowder, through which they fire rubber bullets at us.
The situation continued in this state for more than 4 continuous hours, until the security decided to turn the surroundings of the An-Nahar newspaper building, that is, south of Martyrs’ Square, into a real battlefield. Dozens of bombs were fired at once, followed by dozens of others, as riot police and army units advanced towards the square and the protesters, with close watch from the council’s guards who were providing security for the protesters’ locations, through their intelligence men deployed in the square.
An old man stands in the middle of the square. He says, “Why are others standing here? They should come with us to confront the security forces. We are tired.” Exhausted from the gas you inhale, but he refuses to go, he lost everything at the age of nearly seventy years. He can only scream: “Leave, we don’t want you.” Like him a lot.
At the side of Nahar stands Maysa, who was escaping tear gas. She believes that “nothing will change” but nevertheless participated in this day. She says: “I am participating today for the sake of the victims. For the sake of their families who have suffered, and for the sake of justice. As for change, it is an impossible thing that I do not wait for, and I am fully aware that it will not happen. This country with its sectarian structure and its clientelist system, nothing will change it. The important thing is that today I stand with my conscience.” no more”.
Hundreds of bombs fired. The protesters were trying to escape from it, one of them shouted in an angry manner: “They have the money to fire tear gas at us, but they don’t have the money to secure the minimum requirements of our lives.” The same question was asked by Eid, the owner of a café in Gemmayzeh, who went out with a group of his friends when they saw the riot police returning “from their battles with the demonstrators.” They came out applauding them as a mockery. Eid says in a loud, sarcastic voice: “Bravo, you did your duty perfectly. You are the heroes!”
The long day ended with over 50 injuries. Memorial Day is closed, and tomorrow is another day for the families of the victims in their battle to achieve justice, but the question is: Will the protesters stay with them, or will the day end and the mission ends with it?