Beirut's Berlin Wall moment lasted less than 24 hours

A construction worker takes down Beirut's "Wall of Shame" on Tuesday.  
Richard Hall

BEIRUT, Lebanon — They called it the "wall of shame."

Faced with a growing protest movement angry at the government for not listening to its citizens, the government responded by erecting a 10-foot-high wall around the office of the prime minister on Monday afternoon.

But, in a perfect display of the lack of proper planning and forward-thinking that brought many people out onto the streets in the first place, it was removed less than 24 hours later.

The Lebanese capital of Beirut has been wracked by protests over the past few days, as a campaign that was created to pressure the government to deal with a garbage crisis in the city has grown into a wider anti-government movement.

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The You Stink campaign has brought thousands out onto the streets who are angry at government corruption, poor electricity, water prices and a refugee crisis, among other things.

The aim of the wall might have been to keep police and protesters apart after a weekend of violent clashes, but that was not how Lebanese citizens viewed it. Many took to social media to demand that it be taken down, with some comparing it to the Berlin Wall. Within hours it was covered with anti-government graffiti.

The country’s prime minister, Tammam Salam, ordered the wall be taken down on Tuesday, and in the afternoon a crew of construction workers did just that.

The Lebanese capital is no stranger to division. During the country’s 15-year civil war the city was divided between east and west by a snaking line of checkpoints. It probably didn’t help that, as one sharp-eyed satirist pointed out, the new wall was placed very near the spot of the old "Green Line."

Despite weeks of protests, the You Stink campaign has yielded few concessions from the government. They can now chalk up at least one victory.