The protests were like a snowball picking up speed and growing rapidly. Statements from authorities and political leaders were met with bigger protests and louder calls for the resignation of the government.
Given that my childhood wasnʹt tarnished by the war, I can understand why an escalation concerned my family, but as a journalist trying to cover the protests, I struggled to contain my excitement.
Chapter 4: Escalation
The police were ruthless; they shot rubber bullets from short range, causing many injuries. They beat protesters as they tried to run away. They attacked journalists and anyone who tried to help people caught in the chaos. Mohammad Kassir, a college student mere months from his engineering degree, was shot in the back of his head and fell into a coma. Though Kassir survived, his life will never be the same.
I remember my parents and parents of friends heartbroken over the incident. They asked me and others who were covering the protests or protesting to not end up in his situation and to stay home instead and that it wasnʹt worth the risk. Lebanese Red Cross ambulances zoomed off to the nearest hospital every few minutes when clashes escalated.
Protests would go on all day and all night. At night, the riots escalated. But the protests only ended when people left the streets fearing their safety, or in an ambulance, or a police van. Standoffs between young protesters and riot police became routine.
Chapter 5: Transformation
Downtown Beirut was destroyed during Lebanonʹs civil war. It was rebuilt but without soul. It became an expensive area with nothing but banks, office buildings and pretty facades covering empty buildings. Where were the people?
The protests brought downtown Beirut back to life. For a brief period, downtown was full of people young and old. They talked. They laughed. They took selfies with their friends, sprayed graffiti, vented their frustrations and clashed with the police. They talked about possibilities that summer. They discussed what Lebanon could be.
When police built a concrete wall, artists painted anti-government murals within minutes. People gathered by the wall to continue their conversations, using it as shade.