Scuffles, Roads Blocked as Beirut Protesters Denounce Living Conditions

Clashes erupted and several Beirut roads were blocked Sunday as demonstrators took to the streets to denounce the dire social and economic situations in the country.

Carrying Lebanese flags, protesters in downtown Beirut chanted ‘No Sectarianism, We All Want Health Care Cards’ and ‘The People Want to Topple The Regime’.

Some protesters donned yellow vests in a move echoing the ‘yellow vest’ demonstrations that have been rocking France for several weeks now.

“Organizers declared that they are not emulating the protests that are taking place in France but rather asking the Lebanese state to follow the example of the French state in raising the wages of workers and employees and slashing taxes and other fees in order to preserve the dignity of the citizen in his country,” the National News Agency reported.

The first scuffles erupted at the Riad al-Solh Square after some protesters started removing metallic security barriers outside the Grand Serail while hurling water bottles at security forces.

“The lawyer Abbas Srour from the civil society movement was lightly injured in the head by a water bottle hurled at security forces,” NNA said.

Some protesters later headed to the nearby Tabaris and Beshara al-Khoury areas where they blocked roads and clashed with security forces.

In the evening, a number of demonstrators rallied on the capital's Hamra Street in a demo that soon escalated into a confrontation with army troops and security forces.

"Chanting 'Revolution', some protesters smashed the facades of some shops and money exchange firms on Hamra Street near Starbucks," the National News Agency reported.

The army eventually intervened in force and managed to disperse protesters and restore calm in the area.

The Army Command meanwhile issued a statement warning protesters to keep their actions peaceful, vowing to prevent any attack on public and private property.

Ex-minister Wiam Wahhab meanwhile tweeted that security forces “must realize that the demands of the protesters are also their demands.”

“The corrupts are the rivals of security forces the same as they are the rivals of the rest of the people,” Wahhab added.

"We want a government," shouted one protester to a TV reporter.

"I am here to fight against the corruption of the state. We are here to bring back our social services. We need our rights. We need to live as human beings. We need that our government respects us," said Michel al-Hajj, another protester.

Sunday’s protest comes in the wake of several smaller demonstrations sparked by the death of an ill child after a hospital reportedly refused to admit him due to his parents’ failure to pay a fee of $2,000.

Source: Naharnet, Associated Press

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