Demonstrations in Tripoli have been calm aside from incidents far from the main protest sites [Goran Tomasevic/Reuters] Tripoli, Lebanon - For 18 straight days, Lebanons northern city of Tripoli witnessed crowds protesting in the thousands often resembling large dance parties which have outshone those held in other parts of the country with their regularity and spirit.
Those who filled al-Nour Square each night since the demonstrations demanding the downfall of the post-civil war political class broke out across Lebanon on October 17 have shown no sign of letting up, even as numbers in other parts of the country have dwindled.On a packed night Saturday, many told Al Jazeera severe economic deprivation and high unemployment in the northern city - estimated at about 50 percent - meant locals had little reason to return to normal life.
Thousands rally in show of support for Lebanon President Aoun (4:52)Tripoli is most affected by poverty and hunger and frustration and neglect. All of these people have something to demand; they have years of anger to vent, Raed al-Helwe, a 31-year-old who works in marketing, told Al Jazeera from al-Nour Square.
As Raed spoke, a DJ warmed up the crowd with electronic music from the patio of a large building painted with an enormous mural of the Lebanese flag. It bore the words Tripoli is the city of peace written in Arabic.For decades, Tripoli has been known as a city of conflict, a hotbed of conservatism, a symbol of divisions in Lebanon between those who support the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, and those who vehemently oppose it.
The sectarian rifts exposed during the Syrian civil war also affected Tripoli, where several rounds of clashes took place between Sunni and Alawite rebels, and a number of tit-for-tat suicide bombings killed scores of people.But that bloodstained image has been shaken over the past 18 days, a change many on the streets are eager to emphasise.
We are the popular revolutionThis is the real Tripoli, Ahmad, a 49-year-old man with a food cart, told Al Jazeera.The Tripoli they painted as a city of terrorism, as Kandahar, a city of death and slaughter - here is the real Tripoli, a city of civilisation and culture where people want to live just like anywhere else.
As he skewered whole potatoes and sliced them into swirls which he then deep-fried, Ahmad added: The armed groups were created by politicians to make us hate each other, and we did, and we lost everything ... Now we are taking back our image. What you are seeing here is spontaneous; it comes straight from our hearts.
Unemployment in Tripoli is estimated at around 50 percent [Timour Azhari/Al Jazeera] The sentiment Ahmad was expressing was later captured in a chant led by a charismatic MC, aimed at politicians who continue to stoke civil-war era sectarian tensions nearly three decades after the conflict ended.
.We are the popular revolution, you are the civil war, the crowd chanted, waving the flashlights of their.....