Daylight filters through a large gap at the back of an abandoned cinema in central Beirut. The silhouetted figures of protesters gather on the steps to listen to a political talk by Charbel Nahas.
For days, the two-time former minister and progressive party leader has attracted large crowds, as he shares his ideas for a political transition to a non-sectarian government. Today, he takes center stage in the crumbling amphitheater.
“The regime has already fallen!” says Nahas in a rousing 20-minute speech. “I want you all to look around you and see that the state hasn’t always been this bad, and it will change.”
The protesters cheer. Calls for “revolution” bounce off the walls of the structure, known as The Egg. The moustachioed Nahas stands against the backdrop of graffiti that says: “Black. Poor. Black. Gay. Trans.”
It’s a scene that is emblematic of Lebanon’s so-called October Revolution – people from across Lebanon’s deep socioeconomic divide banding together in the country’s dwindling public spaces to protest the country’s financial crisis and political elite. The working class and educated middle class have been reclaiming empty property long shut off to the public. Same-sex couples have been marching next to more conservative women in headscarves. Street vendors and university students have been joining hands to dance the traditional Dabke.
But the country is standing at a political crossroads, activists and analysts say. Prominent figures in the protests say the political elite have two options: continue to preside over further chaos and face imminent economic (and even state) collapse, or undergo a peaceful transition from sectarian leadership to civil governance to rescue the country.