Saturday, 29 February, 2020


Beirut Braces for More Anti-Government Protests After Night of Riots

Lebanon: Scores injured as riots break out in Beirut Anti-government protests escalate in Lebanon
Bennie Garza | 20 January, 2020, 11:47

Violent clashes between police and anti-government protesters gripped sections of Beirut Sunday night, as part of a "week of rage" declared by protesters that has paralyzed much of the Lebanese capital.

Protesters had called for a week of "anger" as an economic crisis deepened while efforts remained deadlocked to form a new government to replace a leadership that stepped down under street pressure late past year.

Witnesses in Beirut's Martyrs' Square reported multiple incidences of security forces using batons to beat unarmed demonstrators.

The Lebanese Red Cross said it took 65 people to hospitals and treated 100 others on the spot, calling on people to donate blood.

Political factions agreed on December 19 to appoint former education minister Hassan Diab as the new premier but have since squabbled over proposed ministers.

Demonstrators have been rallying against those who have held power since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.

The Internal Security Forces said 142 police were injured.

The clashes intensified throughout the night as more protesters streamed into the area and made repeated attempts to breach the barricade, hurling rocks and fireworks as police fired rubber bullets and teargas that blanketed central Beirut in a milky haze.

But protesters say they want to scrap the old system, and demand only impartial technocrats staff a new government to address their growing economic woes, including a severe liquidity crisis.

At least 337 people were injured in clashes on Saturday, with more than 120 receiving treatment in hospitals. "But for the protests to turn into a blatant attack on the security forces, public and private properties, this is condemned and totally unacceptable", she tweeted Saturday. Workers also welded fencing together across roads leading to Parliament.

"We will not pay the price", chanted some protestors, referencing the national debt, which now stands at $87 billion (€78 billion) or 150% of GDP.

In recent weeks, panic has begun to set in as the value of the Lebanese pound has plummeted and the influx of foreign goods has ground to a halt in a country that relies mostly on imports for basic necessities.

"There was no justification for the brutal use of force unleashed by Lebanon's riot police against largely peaceful demonstrators in downtown Beirut", said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at HRW.

Meanwhile, banks have imposed informal capital controls, limiting withdrawal of dollars and foreign transfers.

Footage from the scene shows protesters and police clashing with each other on smoke-filled streets in downtown Beirut.

On the quiet, rainy streets Sunday, shopkeepers, banks and other businesses swept up broken glass and boarded up windows. Workers at one bank took down the large sign with its name to remove any identifier and avoid soliciting anger from protesters, who smashed the windows and the facade of Lebanon's Banking Association headquarters with metal bars on Saturday. The demonstrators widely blame financial institutions, alongside government corruption, for the crippling economic crisis.

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