Protesters rally in Beirut

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Rally in Beirut, Lebanon
Rally in Beirut, Lebanon

Dueling between protest groups continued yesterday in Beirut at Martyrs' Square where hundreds of thousands demonstrated in opposition to Syrian forces inside Lebanon. It is estimated the rally consisted of nearly a million people, making it twice the size of the one organized last week by the Shiite group Hezbollah who call for Syrian forces to remain in Lebanon.

Monday's rally also marks the one month anniversery of the assassination of former anti-Syrian Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Crowds wearing colors of red and white to show their unity fell silent as church bells tolled at 12:55 in observance of his death and the hour it occurred.

Protesters also sought to undermine support for Prime Minister Omar Karami, who was reinstated after the opposition movement had succeeded in forcing him out. Karami, and President Emile Lahoud who reinstated him, are both pro-Syrian. The sheer size of the demonstration that shouted chants of "Freedom, sovereignty, independence" puts the momentum of the debate back on the opposition movement's side.

According to the Associated Press, the number of people attending this demonstration makes it one of the biggest anti-government protests in the Arab world. If the police estimate of one million participants is correct, one in four inhabitants of the country attended the rally.

The US State Department has dubbed the movement "Cedar Revolution."