Lebanon’s ISF: Protests should not be violent

Lt. Col. Joseph Musallam
Lt. Col. Joseph Musallam

Internal Security Forces (ISF)  Public Relations  chief Lt. Col. Joseph Musallam said on Saturday that freedom of expression is a righteous demand only if it is practiced under the law.

“We believe in freedom of expression which is a constitutional right, but it should be expressed under the law, which means the protests should not be violent” said Musallam in a press conference he held to talk about Thursday’s downtown demonstrations that turned violent and stretchered till early Saturday morning

“Demonstrations must first be approved and announced to the related authorities otherwise they are considered illegal,” he stated, pointing out that none of the protests that were held so far have complied with that demand.

“Organizers of demonstrations must shoulder responsibility for any damages caused by the campaigners they should not disclaim the responsibility,” he said, adding “we support righteous demands that respect the law.”

On accusations fired at the ISF members calling them names for carrying out their duties Musallem said: “By law, protesters have no right to curse or hurt security members or civilians. They have no right to damage public or private property. Activists who were detained are not prisoners of opinion. They have damaged public property and assaulted the security forces.

“The duty of the ISF is to protect democracy, the government premises and public properties. Coordination between the ISF and the organizers of the demonstrations is crucial,” he stated.

Asked about the reason that compels security members to block certain areas and use water cannons against demonstrators, Musallem said “We prevented protesters from entering Nejmeh square ( where the parliament is located ) , which is a public property for all the Lebanese, for security reasons.

“Water cannons are used in many developed countries,” he said, adding that the demonstrations have done much worse “they have hurled Molotov bombs at security members,” he said showing video footage.

He concluded his press conference by saying: “Organizers of the civil society should have admitted the mistakes they made when they removed the cement barriers and barbed wires,” instead of disclaiming responsibility.

Similarly some Lebanese leaders criticized the violence caused by the protesters

Progressive Socialist party chief Walid Jumblatt said on Saturday that although he supports the demands of the civil society activists, it is unacceptable to drag the country to chaos.

“We have expressed our support for the demands and slogans raised by the civil society activists. We even condemned ourselves. But that does not mean that we will accept to stand idle and watch the country being dragged to chaos and systematic destruction of its economy, touristic and commercial institutions,”  Jumblatt told    the PSP-affiliated al-Anbaa website.