Lebanon activists stage hunger strike, want minister to quit

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The hunger strike comes two days after protesters walked into the ministry and staged a sit-in. That standoff with security forces lasted for hours. (AP)

BEIRUT – Several Lebanese activists launched an open-ended hunger strike on Thursday, demanding the resignation of the environment minister at the center of the country’s trash crisis.

The activists set up tents outside the Environment Ministry in downtown Beirut. Several supporters joined the 11 hunger strikers Thursday evening.

“I want him to feel our pain,” 25-year-old protester Salah Jbeili said. “He is responsible for the trash problem. We will fight him, like we will fight all corrupt politicians.”

The hunger strike comes two days after protesters walked into the ministry and staged a sit-in. That standoff with security forces lasted for hours.

A protest movement that began with rallies against the garbage piling up in the streets of Beirut garnered much support among the many Lebanese angered by the government’s failure to find a solution after the main landfill was closed in July. Protests have grown beyond the garbage issue and now target the government and entire political class.

Protesters say the minister, Mohammed Machnouk, has become a symbol of the government’s inefficiency and corruption. Machnouk said he will not resign.

Separately, dozens of protesters held a rally on Beirut’s sprawling waterfront to denounce the installation of new parking meters along the coast, saying it denies poor residents free access to the public space.

Two of the protesters who were blocking the solar-operated meters were arrested by plainclothes security agents at gunpoint, prompting a sit-in outside the interior ministry demanding their release, said witnesses and Neamat Bader al-Deen, a leader of the “We Want Accountability” movement that organized the rally.

Lebanon’s state-owned news agency later said authorities ordered the release of the activists.

AP

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