Arrests, Injuries as Police Fire Tear Gas, Water Cannons at Martyrs Square Protesters

Several protesters were arrested and many others were injured Thursday as security forces fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse civil society demonstrators who tried to enter into central Beirut's al-Nejmeh Square where the parliament is located.

The Red Cross announced transferring 35 people to hospitals after they suffered suffocation injuries due to tear gas inhalation.

Protest movement lawyer Mazen Hoteit said at least 25 protesters were arrested. TV networks identified two of them as Pierre Hashash and Waref Suleiman.

Meanwhile, the Internal Security Forces said several of its members were injured after protesters “hurled rocks and solid objects” at them.

It later said one of its officers was critically injured in the confrontations.

Protest organizers meanwhile stressed that demonstrators will not leave the street before the release of all detainees, as the You Stink campaign demanded "an emergency cabinet session to resolve the garbage crisis" and held Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq responsible for the "security escalation."

Demonstrators had started gathering at Martyrs Square at 6:00 pm for a central march aimed at reaching the adjacent al-Nejmeh Square.

“Protesters have decided to try entering al-Nejmeh Square from all entrances,” said protest organizer Asaad Zebian after scuffles erupted with security forces.

A statement recited by another protest organizer at the demo demanded “the sacking of the environment minister.”

“Remove the garbage that has been accumulating outside our homes,” the statement added, referring to the unprecedented garbage crisis that erupted after the July 17 closure of the Naameh landfill.

“They continued their procrastination until the arrival of rain,” the statement said.

“Release the funds of municipalities, scrap Sukleen's contracts and start activating the waste sorting plants,” the protest movement demanded.

It also voiced its support for residents who live near the suggested sites for the establishment of new garbage landfills and expressed its solidarity with the Campaign for the Closure of the Naameh landfill.

The protest movement also demanded “immediate parliamentary elections that guarantee the proper representation of the Lebanese people without any discrimination.”

A plan devised by Agriculture Minister Akram Shehayyeb and a team of experts calls for reopening the Naameh landfill, which was closed in mid-July, for seven days to dump the garbage that accumulated in random sites in Beirut and Mount Lebanon.

It also envisions converting two existing dumps, in the northern Akkar area of Srar and the eastern border area of al-Masnaa, into “sanitary landfills” capable of receiving trash for more than a year.

After he announced his plan earlier this month, the civil society and local residents of Akkar, Naameh, Majdal Anjar, and Bourj Hammoud protested against the step, citing perceived environmental and health hazards.

Experts have urged the government to devise a comprehensive waste management solution that would include more recycling and composting to reduce the amount of trash going into landfills.

Environmentalists fear the crisis could soon degenerate to the point where garbage as well as sewage will simply overflow into the sea from riverbeds as winter rains return.

The health ministry has warned that garbage scattered by seasonal winds could also block Lebanon's drainage system.

The trash crisis has sparked angry protests that initially focused on waste management but grew to encompass frustrations with water and electricity shortages and Lebanon's chronically divided political class.

Campaigns like "You Stink" brought thousands of people into the streets in unprecedented non-partisan and non-sectarian demonstrations against the entire political class.


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