Tuesday 17 July 2018

Lebanon rubbish collection protests postponed after demonstrations turn violent

Lebanese activists clash with policemen in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP)
Lebanese activists clash with policemen in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP)

Protests sparked by a rubbish collection crisis in Lebanon have been postponed after demonstrators and police officers were injured in clashes.

Organisers of the You Stink protests in Beirut called off anti-government demonstrations set for Monday evening following a night of violent clashes with police during which dozens of protesters and officers were hurt.

The Lebanese army took up positions in and around Beirut, stationing armoured personnel carriers on street corners. Anticipating more protests, authorities began installing blast walls near the main Lebanese government building, site of the largest protests.

The demonstrations, sparked by a collection crisis that has left rubbish piled in the streets for weeks, have grown into a movement demanding the resignation of the entire government and an end to the country's dysfunctional sectarian system.

The peaceful protests by thousands of people turned violent over the weekend after a small group of men repeatedly tried to tear down a barbed wire fence separating crowds from the government building, which houses the prime minister's office and the cabinet.

Police fired tear gas and water cannons at the protesters on Saturday and Sunday night, battling them in the streets of Beirut in clashes that saw both sides hurling rocks and plastic bottles at each other.

Sporadic gunfire could be heard in the capital's commercial district into the night on Sunday as police fired in the air to disperse those who remained. A few protesters later set tyres on fire in Martyrs' Square, with some pulling down trees, smashing windows and traffic lights.

Workers were seen sweeping glass and other objects that were set on fire from the streets on Monday.

The organisers of the protest say they have been infiltrated by political elements and thugs to discredit their peaceful movement. They announced the cancellation of protests planned for Monday evening on their You Stink movement's Facebook page, saying they would hold a news conference later in the day to explain their decision.

The demonstrations seek to upend what protesters see as a corrupt and dysfunctional political system with an ineffective cabinet and parliament. Due to infighting, Lebanon has been without a president for more than a year.

US Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale said he was "deeply troubled" by the images and reports of injuries and called for a thorough investigation and restraint on all sides.

"Lebanon's citizens deserve to have basic services they can count upon, just as they deserve a parliament that overcomes its divisions and elects a president," he said, following a meeting with Prime Minister Tammam Salam on Monday.

Press Association

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