By Umar Khan.
Tripoli, 18 January:
Some 2,000 people joined in a demonstration today, Friday, in Martyrs’ Square against drug trafficking and in support of action against drug dealers. It was organised primarily by Suq Al-Juma local area council.
The protesters had planned to stay in Algeria Square. However, as crowds grew, it was decided to head along Istiqlal Street and 24 December Street to the much larger Martyrs’ Square. Along the route, demonstrators chanted anti-drug slogans.
The police who had earlier approved the organisers’ application to hold the demonstration in Algeria Square, agreed the last minute change of location because of the high turnout.
Not everyone people standing on the road side was impressed with the rally. One of them remarked that “they want to turn this city into Benghazi, where is the country heading”. But others joined in the chants and flashed victory signs at the demonstrators. From some balconies above 24 December Street, women sprayed rose water on the demonstrators.
At Martyrs Square, speeches were made urging the government to support the security agencies crack down on drug dealers.
During the speeches, some individuals started to distribute pamphlets calling for demonstrations in front of the General National Congress in support of the political isolation law. Other demonstrators, however, objected and told them to stop.
“We came here only to demonstrate against the evil of drugs and this demonstration should not be politicised”, said one demonstrator. His view was echoed by many and those involved briefly stopped distributing the pamphlets but started again after few minutes. One demonstrator blamed African migrants for drug trafficking in Libya, “Qaddafi gave thousands of these people nationality and they are bringing this evil to our country. It should be stopped.”
Several members of the Tripoli local council also joined the demonstration towards the end, including Sadat Elbadri, leader of the council, and Hisham Krekshi, the deputy leader.
Member of the Suq Al-Juma area council and one of the organisers of the demonstration, Izzedin el Jareysi, told the Libya Herald that he hoped it would force the government to support the security agencies to crack down on drug dealers across Libya. “We are happy with the turnout. It’s for the country. We are hopeful that the government will now support the security teams that are working against drug trafficking.”
After the demonstrators had started to disperse after sunset, a group of around 50 people entered the square chanting against the rule of militias in the city. Mainly youth from Suq Al-Juma and Fashloum, they were carrying banners asking for the “rule of law” and an end to “torture and extra-judicial killings”. There were no clashes between the two groups.
A small security incident also took place in Algeria Square half an hour after the demonstration had ended involving Zintani units under the Ministry of Defense reportedly involving shooting. No injuries were reported.
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