By Maha Ellawati.
Benghazi, 28 September:
Organisers have called off a second demonstration billed for this afternoon in Benghazi calling for an end to militia rule in Libya.
Last Friday’s “Save Benghazi” rally, which followed the murder of the US Ambassador to Libya and three of his staff ten days earlier, attracted between 30,000 and 40,000 people in the largest demonstration of its kind since the revolution.
Although the rally itself was peaceful, things turned violent on Friday night when protesters stormed the compounds of several Benghazi militias in clashes which left at least 11 people dead.
Since then, the Government together with the National Army has moved to stamp its authority on the city, placing regular officers in charge of all brigades still standing in the city and disbanding several others.
Residents had planned to press home the message today, but the Libya Herald has learned that organisers have relented following repeated calls by political, military and religious figures for calm.
There had been fears that any demonstration could get out of hand a second time, and concerns remain that vigilante action against brigades will take place.
Residents have also spoken of their belief that spoilers, including pro-Qaddafi elements, may attempt to use the protests as cover to cause disruption and violence.
A major protest was also planned for today in Tripoli’s Martyr’s Square, but sources have told this paper that any demonstration will be much reduced in size as many residents have also decided to stay home.
Yesterday, Prime Minister-elect Mustafa Abushagur defended the right of Libyans to protest, but warned that a repeat of last Friday’s violence could not be allowed to happen.
“Demonstration is a national right in a democratic state, as long as it is disciplined and presents no dangers to our homeland”, Abushagur said.
“We don’t want to lose lives. [Last Friday we] lost so many lives and that’s enough”.
Other leaders have also called for calm in recent days, including Grand Mufti Sheikh Sadiq Al-Ghariani and Chief of Staff Yusuf Mangoush.
On Wednesday, a group of Congressmen and women from Benghazi called for the Government to go further in dealing with militias in the city, by disbanding all brigades and requiring members to join the security forces as individuals, rather than continuing to operate as distinct units, albeit under direct military control.
The group also urged Benghazi citizens to refrain from further demonstrations, however, saying that the authorities needed to be given time to implement the reforms.