Thousands of demonstrators poured into Lebanon’s streets on Saturday, directing growing rage at a political elite they blame for driving the country to the economic brink.
In central Beirut, the mood was fiery and festive with protesters of all ages waving flags and chanting for revolution outside upmarket retailers and banks that had their storefronts smashed in by some rogue rioters the night before.
From the south to the east and north of Lebanon, protesters marched, blocked roads, burned tyres to keep the momentum going despite gunmen loyal to Shi’ite Muslim Amal movement appearing with heavy guns to scare them away.
In the afternoon, patriotic songs blared from loudspeakers in Beirut and fireworks exploded over a sea of people dancing and singing, holding banners reading “unite against corrupt politicians”.
“This country is moving toward total collapse. This regime has failed to lead Lebanon and it must be toppled and replaced,” said Mohammad Awada, 32, who is unemployed.
The latest unrest erupted out of anger over the rising cost of living and new tax plans, including a fee on WhatsApp calls, which was quickly retracted after protests - the biggest in decades - broke out.
Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri gave his government partners a 72-hour deadline on Friday to agree on reforms that could ward off economic crisis, hinting he may otherwise resign.