Thousands of demonstrators gathered in downtown Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square late Saturday afternoon to express rage over the ongoing economic crisis in the country.
Lebanese riot police fired tear gas at protesters in central Beirut on Saturday, after a planned anti-government demonstration quickly degenerated into rioting and stone-throwing confrontations between opposing camps. https://t.co/FBut9mB5nK
— Stars and Stripes (@starsandstripes) June 6, 2020
But the original intent of the protest soon transformed into a riot against corruption, against the stumbling economy and against the Shi’ite Hezbollah terror organization, which has developed into a major political entity in Lebanon.
It was the first big demonstration since the government lockdown implemented due to the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The protest was also held on the eve of the anniversary of the outbreak of the ‘Peace for Galilee’ War fought by Israel against Lebanon, a conflict sparked by Hezbollah, as all of them have been.
Some of the banners held by protesters read “Lebanese Lives Matter,” playing off the “Black Lives Matter” movement that has been behind most of the protests across the United States and at least in part around the world this past week.
Some of the protesters in Lebanon were also calling to disarm Hezbollah.
Shop windows were smashed and other property was damaged as protesters burned dumpsters, threw rocks and looted a furniture shop in an upscale shopping district, according to Reuters.
Security forces used tear gas and fired rubber bullets in attempts to disperse the demonstrators, Lebanese media reported.
The Beirut government is negotiating an International Monetary Fund package worth billions of dollars in financing in the hope of building back its trembling economy.
Some of the protesters have been injured, according to a report by the International Red Cross, which said the victims were evacuated in serious condition.
The Lebanon Broadcasting Corporation reported that members of Hezbollah have attacked protesters; footage from the LBC showed a security force motorcycle in flames.
“As long as there are militias stronger than the state, it (the government) will not be able to fight corruption,” real estate company owner John Moukarzel told Reuters.
Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab took office in January backed by Hezbollah and its allies after the previous government was overthrown by protesters last October.