BEIRUT: Protesters remained in the streets for the ninth day Friday, blocking major roads across the country in an attempt to force the mass resignation of all MPs, ministers and the president.
Highways connecting north and south Lebanon to the capital and connecting east and west Beirut remained blocked with protesters, tires, tents and makeshift barriers.
"Road is closed for homeland maintenance," a sign on a blocked bridge said.
Roads in Jal al-Dib, north of Beirut, and Khaldeh, south of Beirut, were blocked since the early morning hours.
During a protest in Furn al-Shubbak, a soldier in a private car with his wife and child attempted to pass through a blocked road. The protesters, mostly women, prevented the car from passing.
A video circulating online showed the soldier grabbing a woman by the neck and pushing her to the ground.
The Army defended the soldier’s actions in a statement, claiming he was reacting after protesters attacked his wife and child and threw hot coffee at them as they tried to walk through the blocked road.
The protesters denied the Army's version of events, saying the soldier had attacked them first.
In Riad al-Solh Square, scuffles broke out after a group of men identifying as Hezbollah members arrived. Riot police had closed roads leading to Riad al-Solh and Martyrs' squares with metal barriers after the group, which included no women, started gathering nearby.
Addressing Hezbollah supporters in his speech Friday afternoon just after the scuffles, party leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah called on his supporters to leave the protests. They responded and withdrew, but as they did, scuffles erupted again between them and other protesters.
Riot police intervened and pushed the supporters out of Riad al-Solh Square, but they headed to the nearby “ring bridge,” amid high security presence. Supporters on scooter bikes and in their cars also roamed different areas such as in Beirut and Tyre carrying Hezbollah and Amal Movement flags.
On Thursday, a similar group joined the protests in Riad al-Solh Square and clashed with them, injuring six people. Protests in the square had been free of violence since Saturday.
On Friday morning, protesters in Beirut’s Downtown gathered and sorted trash left from Thursday night’s demonstration.
Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets the past week to protest the ruling class’ corruption and the government’s inability to deal with Lebanon’s dire economic situation.
People have demanded the resignation of government, early parliamentary elections and holding all corrupt officials accountable. The nationwide protests were sparked by the government’s proposals of tax hikes, including the imposition of a daily fee on WhatsApp calls.
President Michel Aoun addressed the nation Thursday, in his first public speech since the protests broke out. Aoun said he was ready to meet the protesters and hinted at a possible Cabinet reshuffle. However, the protesters were unconvinced by Aoun's prerecorded and delayed message, and vowed to remain in the streets.