Photo Essays

Signs and Banners From the 2019 Protests in Downtown Beirut

Slogans and images have appeared all over downtown Beirut since around-the-clock protests started on Thursday, October 17.

Protesters in Beirut have occupied the central square of the city since last Thursday, October 17. (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

BEIRUT — The protests in downtown Beirut are now in their sixth day and there’s no sign that the movement — ignited by corruption, rising costs, and inequality — will let up. There have been few arrests and injuries during the non-violent gatherings that have taken place in dozens of cities around the country. On Sunday, hundreds of thousands — some estimate up to a million — took to the streets, which is a significant number in a country of 4 million.

While there have been gatherings in almost every city and town in Lebanon, the largest has undoubtedly been in the capital, Beirut, where the mood of the protest oscillates between joyous revelry and more serious chants of unity.

I’ve gathered images of some of the signs, graffiti, and banners I’ve seen over my last two days in Beirut that reflect the ideological and cultural diversity of Lebanon itself. The protest is taking place on the streets of the Beirut Central District (aka downtown), which was redeveloped by the Solidere corporation, a company that has created large modern luxury buildings that remain mostly empty since they were built.

The image translates to “May the Street Rule,” while the Obama Hope image has been appropriated on right to read “Freedom” and includes the artist (EPS) well-known monkey image, which has been found all around Beirut and elsewhere.
Her sign reads “No Trust.”
The image on the left is accompanied by the words “We’ll give them the finger,” while the image on the right has the V for Vendetta mask accompanied by a fez. (Lebanon was formerly part of the Ottoman Empire, where the fez was a common marker of status.)
This mural was found in Gemmayzé, which is close to the site of the Beirut protests.
Some windows remain smashed in downtown Beirut.
The sign on the right reads “Sorting garbage in parliament.” Someone informed me that the “Khalas Pizza” sign actually refers to a local slang that one says when something becomes too much, as in there are too many ingredients, so it should be translated as “It’s become too much.”
Walid Jumblatt is a prominent political figure in Lebanon (and popular on Twitter). He is the head of the Druze minority and a prominent socialist leader.
A recent stencil reads “Yes All Politicians,” referring to protesters’ disgust with the current political class.
A Lebanese flag cuts off a head of a snake that is spewing money.
A message of unity?
The tinderbox of Lebanese unity is on the mind of this stenciler.
“Stand up for your rights.”
Pro Trans and LGBTQ messages were all over downtown Beirut.
His sign reads “The theatre play has ended.”
Feminist messages were prevalent all around downtown Beirut.
Freedom comes in many forms.
Freedom is worth it.
Ok…
This image of Saad Hariri appeared on the streets today, after his speech yesterday, which was universally panned by the protesters. The writing roughly translates to “You shouldn’t have spoken.”
I’m guessing this is a joke.
Bankers were a frequent target of graffiti downtown.
As were the wealthy.
Two artists stenciling during Monday night’s protests.
I spotted the same stencil several blocks away, and it seems to capture the energy of new possibilities at the protests.
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