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Lebanon’s protesters offer safety tips, support for US demonstrators

June 2, 2020 at 12:45 pm

Security forces fire tear gas canisters during a protest against the country’s economic and political situation in Beirut, Lebanon on 18 January 2020 [Mahmut Geldi/Anadolu Agency]

Lebanon’s protesters have offered safety tips and shared their support via social media with demonstrators who took to the streets in over 75 cities in the US over the death of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis.

Floyd, 46, died after then-police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, despite the victim repeatedly telling law enforcement he could not breathe.

Protesters in the US have been met with a strong military presence on the streets and been dispersed by volleys of tear gas– similar to scenes from Lebanon’s demonstrations, sparking Lebanese to offer safety advice.

One activist, Sarah Aoun, published a series of tweets detailing safety and legal advice for protesters, suggesting they keep a lawyer’s number handy in case they are arrested and set a designated meeting place where they can be reunited with friends if they are separated by the crowds.

She also provides an itemised list of “what to keep in your bag”. One of the items listed is soda water which, Aoun says, should be used instead of water to wash skin which has been exposed to tear gas because of its acidic properties.

United Nations: ‘We always support peaceful demonstrations in Lebanon’

Other users posted messages of solidarity. One Beirut-based activist, Sara Rayes, wrote: “from Lebanon, Hong Kong, and Chile to Minneapolis and every other place that might need it #BlackLivesMatter … with lots and lots of love for all the people everywhere fighting for human rights”.

Others were quick to draw similarities between protest movements in the US and Lebanon. One Lebanese writer, Joelle Sheikh, documented similarities between the protest movements.

Sheikh claimed there are seven major points of comparison, one being “a history of injustice and one triggering event” – In Lebanon, the imposition of a tax on online calls through applications such as WhatsApp, and in America, the death of George Floyd.

Others were quick to highlight the different reaction protesters in Lebanon and the US, who broke into buildings and stores, vandalising and destroying the interiors, received.

Lebanese journalist Luna Safwan, posted a video captioned “rioters have stormed the Multnomah County Justice Center in Portland, Oregon, and have set the building on fire”. Safwan noted that Lebanese protesters who broke into buildings during protests were widely criticised.

Several Twitter users ridiculed the US government’s response and rehashed statements from official institutions about the Lebanese protests to draw attention to hypocrisy.

HRW: Lebanon army has used excessive force against protesters

Online Lebanese satirist Karl Sharro, known by his pen name Karl reMarks, also criticised the violent scenes in the US on Twitter. Sharro wrote, “the US should invade itself to bring democracy to the US”.

Two days later, he responded to the tweet, saying “guys I was joking”, after footage of military personnel being deployed on the streets surfaced on social media platforms.