Amid days of passionate protests in Lebanon over new taxes, demonstrators took a short break from shouting anti-government slogans to serenade a scared child, breaking into an impromptu rendition of “Baby Shark.”
As thousands took to the streets of Beirut last weekend to demand a repeal to the tax hikes, the commotion was a bit too much for one young bystander, 15-month-old Robin Jabbour, who was with his mother when a crowd of protesters approached her car.
“I have a baby, don’t be too loud,” his mother pleaded with the group of several dozen protesters, according to CNN, but realizing a little boy was in the car, the men instead erupted into song, clapping and chanting the words to the children’s song, now known virtually worldwide.
The incident has turned the whimsical tune into something of a mock anthem for the protests, with videos posted on social media showing demonstrators singing together en masse.
The public display of discontent kicked off following proposals to raise taxes on the use of internet calling services such as WhatsApp, and to increase the country’s value added tax (VAT) from 11 to 15 percent. Though the demonstrations initially focused on the new fees – garnering it the title of “Tax Intifada” in media reports – they soon broadened to more general complaints about government corruption and mismanagement.
Since last Thursday, hundreds of thousands of protesters have gathered in the streets, with many erecting barricades with burning tires, shutting down roads across the country. Demonstrators have clashed intermittently with security forces.
Much of the anger has been directed at Prime Minister Saad Hariri, whose cabinet passed emergency reforms on Monday in hopes of addressing the public outcry.
The 17-point reform plan repealed some of the tax proposals, slashed the salaries of ministers and lawmakers in half, introduced new taxes on profits in the banking sector and made other efforts to rein in the government’s budget deficit. Lebanon currently has one of the largest public debts as a share of economic output in the world.
“You are the compass and … your movement frankly is what led us to this decision today,” Hariri said in a televised address on Monday, adding that while the reforms will not meet all of the protesters’ demands, they are a significant step toward fighting corruption and waste.
Schools, banks and other businesses remained closed on Monday, along with a number of roads across the country, as street protests appear set to continue, despite Monday’s emergency reforms.
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