Beirut – Lebanese police fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse stone-throwing protesters blocking a road near parliament in Beirut on Sunday (Aug. 9) in the second day of anti-government protests sparked by last week’s powerful explosions. A fire broke out at the entrance to Parliament Square as protesters attempted to enter the closed area, according to TV footage. The protesters also broke into the Ministry of Housing and Transportation office. Two government ministers resigned amid the political repercussions of the boom and months of economic crisis, saying the government failed to implement reforms.
The explosion of more than 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate on Tuesday killed 158 people and injured more than 6,000, exacerbating months of political and economic collapse and sparking strong calls for the government to step down. Riot police wearing bulletproof vests and batons clashed with protesters as thousands gathered in Parliament Square and near Martyrs Square, a Reuters correspondent said.
CHANGE THE GOVERNMENT!
“The government have failed us. We all want them to be removed from government, especially Hezbollah, because it is a militia strength that only intimidates citizen with their army weapons. Now look what they have done to us!” said an one of the protester.
The country’s leading Maronite Christian cleric, Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai, said the government had to step down because it could not “change the way they govern.”
“The resignation of a member of parliament or minister is not enough … the entire government must resign because it cannot help the country recover,” he said in a sermon Sunday.
Lebanon’s Environment Minister resigned on Sunday, saying the government had missed a number of reform opportunities, according to a statement. The departure of Damianos Kattar followed the resignation of Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad Sunday morning following the explosion. Anger turned into violent scenes in central Beirut on Saturday. Thousands protesters occupy the streets demanding to end the bad governance and corruption, this protests were the biggest since October. The protesters gathered in Martyrs Square, around 10.000 people have gathered, which was turned into a battle zone at night between police and protesters trying to break down the barrier along the road to parliament. Several protesters stormed government ministries and the Association of Lebanese Banks. One policeman was killed and the Red Cross said more than 170 people were injured in the clashes.
“The police shot me. But that will not stop us from protesting until we change the government from top to bottom,” said Younis Flayti, 55, a retired military officer.
Nearby, mechanic Sabir Jamali sits beside a rope tied to a wooden frame in Martyrs Square, which is meant to warn the Lebanese rulers to resign or be hanged.
“Every leader who oppresses us must be hanged,” he said, adding that he would protest again.
Maya Habli’s lawyers inspect the destroyed port.
For many, the explosion was a chilling reminder of the 1975-1990 civil war that tore apart the country and destroyed much of the city of Beirut, which has been largely rebuilt.