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Ever since violent protests rocked Tripoli in April, protesters who firebombed a street lined with banks have been hiding out and changing locations every few days in fear of government retaliation.
“We are not rioters interested in blood. It’s not our dream to be in the streets and living this way. But the government only responds to these methods. We saw how they were shaking,” one of the protesters, who asked that his name be withheld, told VICE News.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated Lebanon’s already failing economy, and people are becoming more desperate and hungrier than ever. Protesters are particularly angry with banks because of the tough limits they’ve imposed, which don’t allow people to withdraw their salaries and life savings.
“I know someone who needed to withdraw money so he can pay for his father’s heart surgery. His father ended up dying at the door of the hospital because this government refused to give him his hard earned money,” said the protester.
Some local initiatives, like a Tripoli soup kitchen, run by Linda Bourghoul and her team, have launched to ease the burden of those stuck in quarantine with no income. Bourghoul’s kitchen cooks and distributes meals to around 300 families a day in an attempt to help those who can no longer afford food. Since the pandemic began, some staples have tripled in price.
“I wonder where we’re headed? I don’t know if the state feels any empathy for its citizens. Of course not, if they cared, they would at least give people basic necessities. How are we expected to eat? People could start selling their kids. Maybe that’s where this is going.”
Cover: Protesters from across Lebanon gather for a demonstration against dwindling economic conditions in the country, at al-Nour Square in the centre of the northern port city of Tripoli on May 3, 2020. (Photo by Ibrahim CHALHOUB/ AFP via Getty Images)