Protesters also demanded an international inquiry into the Feb. 14 assassination as well as the resignation of Lebanon’s security chiefs.
The protest organizers aimed to draw 1 million people, which would double the estimated turnout for Hezbollah’s organized pro-Syrian protest last week. Many at the anti-Syria protest carried banners reading “Syria Out” and other slogans, some sang the Lebanese national anthem, while others carried pictures of Hariri and broadcast his speeches from cars parked on street corners, the Associated Press reported.
Church bells tolled at 12:55 p.m., the time Hariri’s motorcade was bombed in Beirut one month ago.
“We are coming to liberate our country. We are coming to demand the truth,” Fatma Trad, a Sunni Muslim woman from northern Lebanon, told the AP.
The presence of some 14,000 Syrian troops stationed in Lebanon drew outrage after Hariri’s assassination, which many Lebanese blame on Syria and the pro-Syrian faction in Lebanon. Although Damascus has denied any involvement with Hariri’s death, it ordered some troops back to the Syria-Lebanon border under mounting pressure from opposition parties and international leaders.
Syrian officials say U.N. Resolution 1559 and the 1989 Taif accord legitimizes Syria’s presence in Lebanon but calls for a later withdrawal. Syria has been a major influence in Lebanon since 1976, when Syria sent troops to halt the Lebanese civil war.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Omar Karami, who is a staunch Damascus supporter, resigned February 28th but was reinstated as prime minister after Hezbollah’s massive pro-Syrian demonstrations last week.