Defiant Libyans march on in mass protest as Washington calls for ‘calm’
Protests against ruling elites and the cost of living continued across Libya from Tripoli to Benghazi on Saturday as international actors called for “calm” and “restraint”.
Demonstrators took part in marches, blocked roads and occupied government buildings across the country in the largest uprising since August 2020 on Friday and Saturday.
“We urge Libya’s political leaders across the spectrum and their foreign backers to seize the moment to restore the confidence of their citizens in the country’s future” said US ambassador to Libya Richard Norland, in a statement released on Saturday.
The ambassador called protests “scenes of turmoil” and called for “compromise among the key figures” in Libyan politics to find a way forward in Libya’s atrophied political landscape.
International responses have been slammed by Libyan analysts for continuing to uphold the status quo.
Incredible that the UN response to nationwide protests in Libya is to double down behind the horrendously corrupt politicians who have embarrassed them over the years, rather than try to maximise street pressure as leverage to finally get something done https://t.co/kuJVkcG0pd— Tarek Megrisi (@Tmegrisi) July 2, 2022
Aside from the attack on the House of Representatives in Tobruk, protests on Friday and Saturday in major Libyan cities were largely peaceful and unarmed.
In Misrata on Friday night, protesters used a huge pile of building sand to block entrances to the municipal council while graffiti on the walls read “the February 17th revolution meant more than this”, referencing the population uprising against former ruler colonel Gaddafi in 2011.
A group of volunteers spent last night guarding this historical building in Misrata after an attempt to burn it during protests. Today, protesters blocked the entrances with building sand to prevent the municipal council from using it, pic.twitter.com/IYsfxtZlAY— Mohsen Derregia (@MohsenDerregia) July 2, 2022
Militias responded violently to peaceful protests in Tripoli, shooting at demonstrators holding banners calling for parliamentary elections and the return of Libyan sovereignty from foreign interference.
A statement from the Libyan Army on Sunday morning blamed the attack on the Tobruq parliament on “factions funded by the Muslim Brotherhood”, though no reporting has provided evidence for claims of centrally organised protest actions.
“The decentralised nature of the protests organised across Libya today constrains the usual propagandists & media channels' ability to delegitimise them”, tweeted Libya analyst Emadeddin Badi.
“Protesters can't be painted as serving a particular "agenda", nor is there a dark conspiracy. It's raw popular frustration,” he continued.
Friday’s protests came a day after the leaders of the Tobruk parliament and another legislative chamber based in Tripoli failed to reach an agreement on elections during UN-mediated talks in Geneva.
Protestors have pledged to continue fighting for a complete change to the ruling elite in Libya, the expulsion of foreign powers and mercenaries, and rescheduled elections to unify the country.