Lebanon’s garbage crisis turns violent

People in Beirut have finally had enough with their government’s inability to clear the trash from the streets of their city, and so last week and over the weekend thousands of them took to those same streets in protest. The protests, part of a new movement that’s aptly called “You Stink,” prompted a violent response from police and the Lebanese army, who have been using batons and water cannons to drive the protesters away from government buildings in the city. One protester died yesterday, and dozens more (along with dozens of police) have been injured in the clashes. You Stink cancelled a planned rally today, saying that violence directed against the police over the weekend was the work of infiltrators not affiliated with the movement, but they say they’re not going away.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Tammam Salam, has promised to hold police accountable for “excesses” in their handling of the protests, and has also threatened to resign (which it seems would make the protesters happy) over the general government dysfunction that has precipitated this whole affair and that is hurting Lebanon beyond the garbage problem. That dysfunction has already left the country without a president for going on a year and a half now, so if Salam were to resign it would leave the country without much in the way of executive leadership and with no way of appointing a new prime minister (which is the president’s job). Salam’s cabinet is meeting Thursday to resolve the garbage situation, but if it fails to do so, the calls for mass resignations are going to be deafening.

At this point, Lebanon’s internal politics are so royally screwed up, and so tied to events in Syria, that it’s probably going to take international intervention to broker a deal to break the gridlock, starting with appointing a new president. Unfortunately, that international intervention has to come from Iran (which backs Hezbollah) and Saudi Arabia (which backs Lebanon’s Sunni parties) working together, which is a pretty tough task. These protests might be the only thing that can shake the country’s political establishment up enough to get it to take control of its own destiny and stop letting regional powers control Lebanese internal affairs.

ThinkProgress has compiled some incredible photos of the protests, and this report on the protests from France 24 includes some dramatic video of the protests and the police response:

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