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LEBANESE politicians held an independence day military parade at the Defence Ministry HQ rather than central Beirut today, since the city centre is occupied by the insurgent people.
The parade was scaled down from previous years with no tanks or military vehicles displayed. President Michel Aoun, resigned prime minister Saad Hariri and parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri arrived and left separately.
The politicians are at loggerheads over how to respond to the popular uprising. Mr Hariri has accused Mr Aoun of acting “irresponsibly,” while Mr Aoun says Mr Hariri is holding the cabinet hostage.
A far larger independence day rally took on a revolutionary air in Beirut as crowds in 40 blocks paraded through the capital, organised in “regiments” to demonstrate that the people have eclipsed the military.
“This year we decided that independence is also for the people. We started this revolution. It is a people’s revolution, a nation’s revolution, and all the people want to express that,” university worker Lara Hayek said.
Lebanon has been taken over by immense protests against the sectarian political system — which allocates senior political roles to different religious factions — since early October. While some Christian militias and Hezbollah have clashed with protesters, the state has been largely paralysed and has not responded with mass violence in the way Iraqi authorities have.
Demonstrators said the economy was moribund and Lebanese people had no options except emigrating.
Politicians “don’t want the country to change — they want it to stay the same and for us to leave,” a protester dressed as Charlie Chaplin said.
“I don’t want to leave this country. I want to stay, to work and live in Lebanon.” She raised a banner reading: “You have the power to make life free and beautiful.”
A white banner hung between two trees called for the public to add their own messages. One read: “This is a people’s independence day. Independence from a corrupt authority. November 22 with a different flavour!”
They scrambled to re-erect a giant cardboard cutout fist with “Revolution” written on it in Arabic that was raised in the early days of the protests but burned down overnight.
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