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  • Police chased, beat and arrested protesters in an attempt to disperse rallies outside the parliament in Beirut on Saturday night.

    Police chased, beat and arrested protesters in an attempt to disperse rallies outside the parliament in Beirut on Saturday night. | Photo: Reuters

Published 15 December 2019
Opinion

"We won't leave, We won't leave. Just arrest all the protesters!" the protesters chanted.

Lebanese security forces used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons against protesters Sunday in central Beirut near Lebanon’s parliament, in what was the second night of intense confrontations between demonstrators and the police, as Lebanon’s peaceful anti-government movement start to take a violent turn.

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Sunday’s clashes followed a fierce crackdown on demonstrators by security forces that occurred the night before and left more than 130 people injured, according to the Red Cross and the Lebanese Civil Defense. 

Police had chased, beat and arrested protesters in an attempt to disperse rallies outside Parliament, marking the most violent unrest in the capital since the wave of demonstrations started on Oct. 17 and forced Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to resign.

However, despite the repression, thousands of people retook to the streets Sunday to reject the possible nomination of Hariri as prime minister, and to denounce the crackdown. People chanted against the security repression and called for an independent new head of government.

For weeks, protesters have been demanding a technocratic government formed by independent experts, non affiliated with traditional political parties, and who would attempt to tackle the country’s deep economic crisis

They also want early elections to be held on a new system removed from Lebanese’s sectarian electoral law. "We won't leave, We won't leave. Just arrest all the protesters!" the protesters chanted.

“They are the ones who looted the country. They are the ones who got us here. We want our rights,” said Nadine Farhat, 31, a protesting lawyer.

The protests were triggered two months ago by widespread anger at the ruling political elite whose policies and rampant corruption plunged the country in its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

After Hariri quit, talks to agree a new cabinet became mired in divisions between the prominent Sunni Muslim politician, who is aligned with Western and Gulf Arab states, and adversaries including the Iran-backed Shi’ite group Hezbollah. ​​​​​​​Hariri, is expected to be appointed prime minister again Monday at formal consultations.

Grounded in years of mismanagement by the successive governments, the economic crisis has now filtered into the financial system which faces dollar shortages and a weakening of the pegged pound. Banks had mostly been closed since the protests started.

Foreign donors say they will only help after there is a cabinet in place that can enact reforms.

“There’s no work, no wages, no money, nothing,” said a protester, Omar Abyad, 25, a nurse who has been unemployed since he graduated two years ago. “I am in the streets and I have nothing to lose.”

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