Reporters on the Job

People Power in Beirut: Correspondent Nicholas Blanford was at Monday's anti-Syrian rally, the largest in Lebanese history (this page). "It was a good-natured demonstration. The participants seemed anxious that it not turn violent. They said they were looking at Ukraine as the protest they want to emulate. They're hoping that their sheer numbers will change policy," says Nick.

In another nod to Ukraine, he says that a handful of students have set up tents on a grassy knoll near the grave of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. "They're vowing to stay there until Syria leaves Lebanon," he says.

Similar to the people power rallies elsewhere in the world, such as the popular overthrow of Philippines President Joseph Estrada in 2001, the organization was mostly grassroots - and utilized cellphones. "This was not a top-down event. The word was sent out to gather at midday in downtown Beirut outside the St. George Hotel, near where Mr. Hariri was killed a week ago. But we also heard that the Lebanese police were setting up checkpoints on the roads leading into the city, apparently to slow down the gathering. Text messages were sent out telling people of the checkpoints and to gather earlier than planned," says Nick.

"At five minutes before 1 o'clock, a man leading the cheers over a loudspeaker called for a moment of silence. The massive crowd went completely quiet for about 15 seconds. It was remarkable," he says. "That was followed by a thunderous rendition of the Lebanese national anthem. It was quite a moment, to be standing in the middle of it all."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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