Lebanon Sit-ins Become Source of Income for Street Vendors
In downtown Beirut, where tents have been erected in Martyrs’ Square and the entrances leading to Riad al-Solh Square, stalls and carriages are there to provide the protesters with different kinds of juices, sandwiches, water bottles, grilled corn and a variety of Lebanese specialties.
Abu Ali, one of the vendors, who moved from Riad al-Solh to a position at the nearby Azaria area in central Beirut, after being driven out by the security forces, told Asharq Al-Awsat that he was “exploiting the revolution to make a living.”
Another vendor who is selling water says that he is providing water to the demonstrators “at a very low price compared to the prices of goods in downtown Beirut.”
Ahmed, one of the demonstrators, found that the prices of the goods sold were very reasonable, while Sarah said the prices differed from one seller to another.
“Some people were selling three bottles of water for only LBP 1,000 (less than a dollar), while others were selling each one for LBP 1,000,” she noted.
The scene in central Beirut is no different from other areas in Lebanon, albeit with less or greater momentum depending on the number of demonstrators.
In the northern city of Tripoli, for example, “most of the vendors in Al-Nour Square came from popular areas in the city.” Many of them were unemployed, and found in the street movements a new source of income for their families, according to social activist Ibrahim Haidar.
Similarly, some sweet shops and restaurants used the demonstrations to advertise themselves as a supporter of the revolution.
In Tripoli, the Al-Hallab Palace distributed the traditional knefeh dessert to the protesters, and another store, Pistachio, distributed sandwiches to the demonstrators for days. So did other dessert shops in Zouk, north of Beirut, Martyrs’ Square and Riad al-Solh, where they distributed sweets to protesters, such as the Sea Sweet shop that offered the protesters baklava.
In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Sarah, one of the participants in the demonstrations in downtown Beirut, denied rumors about suspicious funding of the demonstrations.
“This is far from reality, and the goals of those who promote such rumors are known to us,” she said.
Jad, one of the protesters in Beirut and Nabatieh, said that the Lebanese community in Canada has hired a Lebanese catering house to provide a daily meal for the protesters in Beirut and the South.
He added that some Lebanese women were offering traditional meals for the demonstrators, based on a personal initiative.
Unprecedented cross-sectarian demonstrations have gripped Lebanon since October 17, demanding a complete overhaul of a political system deemed inefficient and corrupt.
Protesters have called for an end to President Michel Aoun's tenure, as well as drastic change to a political system dominated by the same figures and families since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.
Succumbing to the pressure, Saad Hariri resigned as prime minister last week.