Clashes rock Beirut as security forces fire tear gas at protest

Published December 16, 2019, 7:23 AM

by Patrick Garcia

By Reuters

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Tear gas engulfed central Beirut as security forces chased protesters near Lebanon’s parliament on Sunday in a second night of street clashes that wounded dozens of people.

Smoke rises from tear gas fired during anti government protests in Beirut, Lebanon December 15, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
Hundreds of people returned to demonstrate despite a fierce crackdown by security forces the night before when clashes had also injured dozens.

It marked the most violent unrest in the capital in a historic wave of protests that has swept Lebanon since Oct. 17 and pushed Saad al-Hariri to resign as prime minister.

The protests erupted from anger at a political elite that has overseen decades of corruption and steered the country toward its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

“We will not leave. They are the ones who looted the country. They are the ones who got us here. We want our rights,” said Nadine Farhat, 31, a lawyer protesting on Sunday.

Riot police and security forces, deploying again in large numbers, unleashed water cannons at protesters who remained on the streets into the night.

The Lebanese Civil Defense said it had treated 46 people for injuries and taken 14 others to hospital.

The clashes rocked a commercial district of Beirut for hours late into the night, and army soldiers closed off some streets.

Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces said they fired tear gas after demonstrators pelted them with fireworks and stones. On Twitter, the ISF called on protesters to leave the streets.

“They attacked us in a barbaric way, as if we’re not protesting for their sake, their children,” said a protester, Omar Abyad, 25, a nurse who has been unemployed since he graduated two years ago.

“There’s no work, no wages, no money, nothing. I am in the streets and I have nothing to lose.”