Protesters marched in different Lebanese cities on Saturday to mark the first anniversary of a protest movement that toppled the government but was then overwhelmed by an economic crisis, the coronavirus pandemic and a devastating explosion at the Port of Beirut.
Last October, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese took to the streets against the country’s political elite, presiding over an economic crisis and a collapse in the currency.
While the turmoil led to the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, politicians have since failed to form a government capable of addressing the country's challenges.
The global pandemic and the Aug. 4 explosion at the port, which killed nearly 200 people and wounded thousands, brought further suffering and robbed the protests of momentum.
Hundreds of protesters marched past the central bank in Beirut, a target of protesters' anger over a financial crisis that has seen the Lebanese pound lose nearly 80% of its value, and the parliament building before gathering near the damaged port.
They later lit a giant flame over a metal statue that reads in Arabic the “October 17, Revolution.” The flame was lit at 6:07 p.m. to mark the moment the port blast occurred.
Protesters also rallied in the northern city of Tripoli and in the southern city of Sidon. Like in Beirut, the demonstrators were far fewer than those last year.
The protests come ahead of talks between President Michel Aoun and parliamentary blocs to choose a prime minister. Hariri is in the running to form a government, although obstacles remain.
The legitimate grievances of the Lebanese people have gone unheeded during a "harrowing year" of crises, said Jan Kubis, the United Nations special representative for Lebanon.
"People’s commitment to and yearning for deep reforms and changes continues to be strong, even if the momentum has receded," Kubis said. "They have planted the seeds for systemic changes. One year on, their struggle continues."