Lebanese Protests Postponed After Violent Weekend

AP Photo/Bilal Hussein
AP Photo/Bilal Hussein

Protesters in Beirut postponed a demonstration against the Lebanese government after clashes turned violent over the weekend. The violence injured dozens of people, including police officers.

A group called “You Stink!” organized the rallies against the government over corruption and piles of trash left on the streets for weeks. The rallies were peaceful during the week, but quickly turned violent on Saturday and Sunday.

Young men attempted to “tear down a barbed wire separating the crowds from” a government building that holds the Prime Minister and Cabinet offices. Other people threw rocks and bottles at the security forces while those in Martyrs’ Square “set tires ablaze” and tore up trees and smashed windows. Police fired back with water cannons and tear gas.

Protesters even attacked TV news reporter Nada Andrew Aziz. In videos she is seen “carried away by protesters while trying to film the live segment.”

Organizers from “You Stink!” held a press conference on Monday after they announced on Facebook they planned to cancel Monday night’s rally. They claim their protests were “infiltrated by political elements and thugs to discredit their peaceful movement.” Protestor Salah Noureddine said those who committed the violence “do not represent the Lebanese people.”

The group announced new rallies for Saturday but did not state where they will hold them.

The country’s main landfill closed over a month ago. The government could not find a simple solution to fix their waste crisis due to infighting. Citizens frustrated with the situation burn the trash, “sending toxic fumes over the city’s skyline and into homes.” Some dispose of the trash in “valleys, rivers and near the sea,” which led the health minister to warn of health risks.

Lebanese officials also worry that terrorist group Hezbollah will use the panic to overthrow the government. Prime Minister Tammam Salam said he would resign if no one stops the protests. Sources told various newspapers that Hezbollah will make that happen:

Salam has suggested that he may resign from his position if the protests don’t stop – and according to Al Araby, Hezbollah has been fanning the flames in order to engineer just that.

Sources in Lebanon confirmed the Hezbollah plan. Reports there said that the Amal Shi’ite party, closely associated with Hezbollah, was agitating the protesters in order to create unrest. The reports said that party members had fought police and soldiers in Beirut, and had organized numerous illegal protests and riots.

Monday was more peaceful in Beirut. Workers raised a cement wall around the top government building as others cleaned up the public squares. However, protesters are painting the new wall.