Lebanon News

Day 90: Riot police, protesters clash near BDL

Anti-government protesters smash vitrines in Beirut, Jan. 14, 2020. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Clashes between protesters and security forces in Beirut's Hamra broke out Tuesday evening, after a protest outside the Central Bank.

As protesters attempted to storm the bank, riot police tried to disperse those demonstrating from the area. The police proceeded to chase the protesters away from the Central Bank's entrance, as rocks and plastic water bottles rained down on them.

The Internal Security Forces released a statement calling on all "peaceful protesters" to clear the area.

Riot police fired multiple rounds of tear gas at the protesters, who scattered towards Verdun, Clemenceau and Hamra's main street. They dragged dumpsters into the roads and set them alight as tear gas clouded the air. Others smashed the vitrines of local banks.

More than 20 protesters and members of the security forces were injured, according to the Lebanese Red Cross.

In Sidon, a group of protesters headed to the city’s Central Bank branch to hold a demonstration in solidarity with the Beirut protest.

After a period of relative calm over the holidays, flaming tires covered highways across the country in thick black smoke, as demonstrators brought traffic to a standstill. As the day went on, more protesters gathered in public spaces of towns and cities including Beirut, Sidon, Tripoli, Zahle and Nabatieh.

A number of protesters were also injured, amid escalating tensions with security forces.

Caretaker Education Minister Akram Chehayeb announced that it was at schools' discretion whether to open their doors Wednesday.

Hundreds marched over Beirut’s Ring Bridge to the home of Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab in Talet al-Khayat to reject the formation of a government that contains figures from the existing political elite.

They said they were giving him 48 hours to form an emergency "salvation government" made up of independent candidates.

"Get out, out, out! You're not independent," the crowd chanted from the street.

Protesters hit the streets to reject Diab almost immediately after his nomination. Since then, he has frequently been targeted in their chants.

They had gathered on the Ring Bridge Tuesday late morning obstructing vehicles, burning tires and clashing with security personnel who tried to reopen the road. Numbers grew from a few dozen in the morning to hundreds by early afternoon.

“We didn’t leave [the streets]. Perhaps the rain set us back a bit, but our revolution fuels itself,” Sahar Gharios, 51, told The Daily Star at the Ring Bridge.

“We have rights within our state ... our state sold out its people. They’ve forced us to steal back our freedom and we’ll remain here, against a government of sectarian quotas, until we get all of our rights.”

Qusai Zoabi, 21, told The Daily Star, “We’re reaffirming that we will remove the entire ruling class and that our steps will escalate until then.”

Televised footage showed two protesters dousing themselves with gasoline, in order to light themselves on fire, but they were quickly stopped.

Groups of protesters blocked roads in Sidon from the early hours of Tuesday morning. Others erected tents in the middle of the Elia intersection, which led to scuffles with the Lebanese Army. Five people were injured at the scene and security forces detained one man.

Dozens of students in Sidon skipped class Tuesday morning, further energizing the movement and helping protesters to close public institutions such as Electricite du Liban, Ogero and the South Lebanon Water Authority. Others congregated in front of Sidon Serail to demand, amongst other things, the modernization of the education curriculum.

Nationwide antigovernment protests erupted on Oct. 17 to demand the overhaul of the country's political system.

The pace has picked up over the past few days, with protesters embarking on a campaign of demonstrations and civil disobedience informally named the “Week of Anger.”

Protests also returned to the northern capital Tripoli, which was one of the most consistent locations for demonstrations in the first two months of the uprising.

Waving Lebanese flags and carrying flowers, dozens marched through the city's main streets chanting, “They nominated Hassan Diab but we will bring him down,” in reference to the parties that backed Diab as prime minister. By evening, they had filled Nour Square.

Televised footage showed flaming tires and blocked roads all across the country. In Furn al-Shubbak, protesters threw tires from a bridge for those waiting below set alight.

Throughout the day, protesters gathered in larger numbers on the main Beirut-North Lebanon highway, causing long backlogs of vehicles in Jbeil, Jal al-Dib and Zouk Mosbeh, where set up a tent in the middle of the road.

Large trucks parked in the center of the highway on the southern highway at Jiyyeh to block traffic.

Tensions rose at a roadblock in Zouk as a large car tried to force its way through. Protesters angrily shouted at the driver, beating on the car bonnet, eventually forcing them to reverse.

Large crowds marched and blocked intersections in Jdeideh, while students obstructed the Jounieh highway.

Late Monday night, crowds blocked the main streets outside the Central Bank in Hamra, Beirut, condemning its financial policies, amid the worst economic crisis Lebanon has faced in decades.

While the number and size of demonstrations has decreased over the past three months, they have become both more spontaneous and targeted.

Sit-ins, demonstrations against state and financial institutions, and road closures have become favored tactics.

 

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