Lebanon police, protesters clash in second day of rallies

Published August 23rd, 2015 - 05:23 GMT

Thousands of people from across Lebanon poured into downtown Beirut for a second day of protests to demand the government resign over the trash crisis and other controversies.

Police began firing water cannons at the protesters around 7:20 p.m., more than one hour after the protest began, in scenes that resembled police actions during the demonstration one day before when they also used rubber bullets and tear gas to attack supporters of the "You Stink" group.

About 20 minutes later, the protesters slowly started evacuating the Riad al-Solh protest square and moved toward Martyr's Square, chanting "the people want the downfall of the government," and "revolution!"

The protest had officially began at 6 p.m., but hundreds had been rallying at Riad al-Solh since the early morning.

You Stink vowed to stay planted in Downtown Beirut until Prime Minister Tammam Salam steps down.

“We demand that Salam resign by 6:00 p.m. tonight (Sunday),” a protester at Riad al-Solh said, reading out a statement following a meeting by campaign organizers to respond to Salam’s earlier press conference.

“Our patience is limited,” the activist said, reminding the premier that the country is deteriorating.

"We refuse to make you (Salam) a false witness."

The campaign also insisted that their movement is a peaceful one and demanded the state hold security forces accountable for Saturday's violence.

Salam earlier Sunday called on civil society organizations and activists to form a delegation to meet with him to discuss the crises gripping the country.

"I am ready to hear your demands ... I have nothing to hide."

The premier also vowed to hold those responsible for the excessive violence employed against demonstrators accountable.

Protesters, activists and civil society groups remained camped out Sunday at Riad al-Solh Square near the Grand Serail, one day after a massive protest organized by You Stink turned violent.

Clashes broke out between demonstrators and police, who used rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas to disperse thousands of unarmed protesters.

At least 75 demonstrators and 35 officers were wounded.

On Sunday, several masked protesters provocatively attempted to remove barbed wire separating demonstrators from security forces following Salam’s speech at the Grand Serail.

However, the You Stink campaign organizers demanded that security forces prevent them from going through with their act, accusing the masked protesters of trying to provoke a violent response.

The activists later accused the protest "infiltrators" of vandalizing an ISF vehicle.

The protesters placed the barbed wires back in its places in an attempt to show that their movement is peaceful.

Some protesters sang the Lebanese national anthem while others called for the fall of the government.

Protesters, who originally took to the streets to call for sustainable solutions to the garbage crisis, began demanding the resignation of Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, the Cabinet and immediate parliamentary elections after Saturday's clashes with security forces.

The Internal Security Forces later emphasized in a statement posted on its website that it "fully respects citizens' right to express their opinion and stage peaceful protests."

"In this regard, we have worked and will work on protecting protesters ... but we are also compelled to protect public institutions at all times and are within the law to prevent infiltrators from assaulting legislative and executive institutions and private property."

People in several areas across Lebanon briefly blocked roads in solidarity with Riad al-Solh protesters.

Roads in Dahr al-Baidar, Chtaura, Hermel and the Qaa in the Bekaa Valley and the Batroun-Tripoli highway were briefly blocked.

Ali Slim, a spokesperson with the You Stink campaign, later in the day read a statement calling on protesters to regroup again Monday in the same square.

"We entirely refuse to negotiate with the Cabinet until it takes effective and clear measures to guarantee holding the responsible political and security officials accountable and back down on the excessive use of violence with protesters."

He said that they refuse to discuss any issue with Salam before he resigns.

The campaign called on the Lebanese to continue to demonstrate, urging Lebanese expats to gather before embassies in their country of residence in solidarity.

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