Lebanese protesters celebrate Hariri resignation but want more

Demonstrators hail prime minister’s departure but promise to stay in the streets until all their demands are met.

Beirut, Lebanon – Cries of celebration went up across Lebanon on Tuesday as protesters demanding the fall of the government celebrated Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s resignation – though most said this was merely an initial victory in a long-term battle.

“It’s a good first step but we’re still going to stay in the streets,” demonstrators said. “Hariri is part of the problem but he’s not all of the problems… We don’t think anyone thinks we’re done.”

For many demonstrators in the capital, the news of Hariri’s resignation was an important boost in their nearly two-week protest movement following a day of street brawls instigated by supporters of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement party.

Hundreds of men, most wearing black, beat protesters and destroyed protest encampments in central Beirut before Hariri’s televised address, eventually retreating after security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets.

“Hariri isn’t the one who’s sending his people to beat us up and destroy what we have. Those people are still in Parliament and we need to finish what we’ve started there,” Mouzannar said, sitting next to a tent being reconstructed by protesters.

On a nearby road leading to Riad al-Solh square, Saba, a 21-year old event planner, was painting Lebanese flags on the faces of passersby. “He should have resigned earlier, but better late than never – and we got what we wanted,” she said.

But she, too, said Hariri’s resignation by no means satisfied her hopes for the unprecedented movement she was part of. “Step two is to get back the money politicians have stolen from us. Then we will hold everyone accountable, and God is on our side,” she said.

As evening fell, hundreds of Lebanese in Riad al-Solh stood together for the national anthem. Many hugged. One woman stood still, tears rolling from her eyes.

“This may be the biggest achievement for my generation, winning in a clash of this level with our politicians,” Nabil, a 30-year old engineer, said.

Outside Beirut, thousands also took to the streets of northern Tripoli, a former stronghold of Hariri’s Future Movement, to celebrate the news. Hundreds of others were out in towns and villages across the country, including in Jal al-Dib, Zouk Mosbeh and Jbeil north of Beirut, and Nabatieh and Tyre south of the capital.