BEIRUT/SIDON: Hezbollah and Amal Movement supporters destroyed and burned tents belonging to protesters in Downtown Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square Tuesday, after beating demonstrators who were blocking the nearby Ring Bridge.
Riot police dispersed Hezbollah and Amal Movement supporters and pushed them out of Downtown after they burned protesters’ tents and left a trail of destruction through the area.
The group of over 100 men tore down, burned or destroyed almost everything in the Martyrs' Square area, including tents and stages.
Riot police did not stop the group from destroying the tents, instead standing to the side. The images were broadcast live on television across Lebanon.
The Lebanese Army later arrived on the scene, clearing Martyrs' Square of the group.
After the group was pushed out of Martyrs’ Square, it headed to Riad al-Solh Square, where the Internal Security Forces' riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the men.
The parties’ supporters then retreated toward Al-Khandaq al-Ghamiq, and the police fired tear gas to keep them from heading back toward the Ring Bridge, where the scuffles first started.
“Anyone who mentions Speaker Nabih Berri, we will step on their heads,” some members of the group said, referring to the Parliament speaker and leader of the Amal Movement.
Earlier in the day, the same group clashed with protesters blocking the Ring Bridge in a bid to reopen it, tearing down some of the tents the protesters set up to block the road on the 13th day of nationwide protests.
The group of men, who opposed roadblocks, said they supported the protesters’ demands but without blocking roads.
“We sacrifice our souls, our blood, for you Nabih” Berri, the residents chanted.
“Allah, [Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan] Nasrallah, and all of Beirut’s southern suburbs,” others said.
The protesters, who refused to open the road, sat in the middle of the bridge, chanting, “Peaceful, peaceful.”
The residents, many of whom said they were Amal Movement and Hezbollah supporters, were seen kicking and beating the protesters sitting on the ground. They also threw rocks and metal poles at the protesters and police.
At least six people were injured in the scuffle, including a Daily Star photographer and reporter at the scene.
Riot police attempted to separate the residents from the protesters, occasionally clashing with the residents who insisted on opening the road.
The Lebanese Army later deployed in the area, restoring calm and separating the two groups at opposite ends of the highway.
Major highways remained blocked by protesters, who inhabited streets and squares for the 13th consecutive day, showing no sign that their uprising is nearing an end.
Roads on both the northbound and southbound highways out of Beirut remained blocked, along with the Ring Bridge, which connects east and west Beirut.
“We are here because they [politicians] are there at Baabda Palace and the Grand Serail,” said one protester, sipping his coffee in an outdoor living room set up on the Ring Bridge.
Earlier Tuesday, van drivers clashed with protesters on the highway south of Beirut in Khaldeh.
In Beirut, a group of residents opposing the roadblocks blocked the road in the area of Ain al-Mreisseh, demanding an end to road closures, and several people clashed with protesters.
“This is a conspiracy. You’ll see what will happen to the country. You’ll pay the price,” one of the people who wanted to pass through the blocked road told the protesters.
“We are university students here to demand our rights. Our simplest right is to dream not to leave the country,” a protester hit back.
In Sidon, a main highway was blocked by protesters sitting on the ground. However, the seaside highway connecting Sidon to Beirut and Naqoura remained open.
Protesters took to the streets Oct. 17 against proposed tax hikes by the government. While the government withdrew its proposals, the people remained on the streets and demanded the removal of the ruling class, an end to the sectarian-based ruling system, early parliamentary elections and return of “looted public funds.”