Lebanon News

Uprising Day 34: Protesters clash with security forces in Beirut

Police arrest a protester in Beirut, Nov. 19, 2019. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Protesters clashed with riot police in Beirut's Riad al-Solh Square Tuesday evening after a public screening of Lebanon's 2022 football World Cup qualifier against North Korea.

At least one person was injured and several arrests were made, according to local media. One video circulating on social media showed an injured man being carried away by two others.

Minutes later, a brief scuffle broke out between protesters themselves.

Just before the scuffles, hundreds had gathered in Martyrs' Square to watch the football match on a big screen.

A similar incident took place earlier Tuesday, in which at least one woman was lightly injured and was taken from the scene by a Red Cross Ambulance.

Security forces had deployed in large numbers Tuesday morning in anticipation of protesters' attempts to stop MPs reaching Parliament on the 34th day of Lebanon's mass uprising.

“This is a victory for us. We prevailed. We not only prevented [the MPs] from entering, but we also prevented the session from happening entirely,” said Mohammed Wissam Arnaout, 21, a demonstrator in Riad al-Solh Square.

Hundreds of protesters remained in Downtown Beirut to celebrate after the announcement that the parliamentary sessions had been indefinitely postponed. They waved flags and chanted, “Revolution,” and “The people demand the fall of the government.”

“We showed that we aren’t going anywhere and that we have the power,” Aranaout told The Daily Star.

Crowds gathered early morning to block roads surrounding and leading to the parliament building, in an attempt to deny MPs access to the scheduled parliamentary session.

Scuffles erupted between demonstrators and security forces outside Downtown Beirut’s Annahar building and Riad al-Solh Square, both main veins leading to Nejmeh Square. Protesters were seen removing barbed wire in an attempt to edge closer to Parliament as riot police advanced, less than three hours before the session was scheduled to start.

Protesters also attacked a convoy of three cars in Bab Idris to prevent them from passing through to Parliament. The cars, believed to be carrying at least one MP, were unable to enter and forced to return as protesters smashed their windows with metal poles and barricades after accusing the drivers of trying to run them over.

In Riad al-Solh, protesters lit barrels of garbage on fire. “We will not permit any MP to enter today,” said one protester.

A parliamentary session to elect committee members and a legislative session were initially set for last Tuesday, but Speaker Nabih Berri postponed them for a week for security reasons. The rescheduled sessions were expected to start at 11 a.m Tuesday.

The legislative session included draft laws related to fighting corruption, pensions and a general amnesty. Protesters have widely criticized the proposals.

Meanwhile, banks reopened Tuesday for the first time in 10 days after announcing temporary measures including a weekly cap of $1,000 on withdrawals of hard currency and transfers abroad limited to urgent personal expenses.

 

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