Demonstrators who took to the streets of Beirut after the Lebanese capital was rocked by a massive blast earlier this week have stormed the Foreign Ministry and other government buildings, amid violent clashes with police.
Around 10,000 people gathered at Martyrs’ Square in central Beirut to accuse the government of negligence, which they say allowed a massive ammonium nitrate explosion to occur at the port on Tuesday.
The accident killed more than 150 people, injured thousands and caused vast damage to the city.
The protesters initially tried storming the parliament, but police managed to repel the attack, employing tear gas, rubber bullets and, according to some reports, live fire.
The Red Cross said that more than 170 demonstrators were injured, with a third of them requiring hospitalization. One officer was killed in the clashes, according to the police.
But the Lebanese security forces apparently lacked the manpower to protect other government buildings.
The demonstrators first occupied the Foreign Ministry and raised a large banner atop it, reading “Beirut is a city without weapons.”
Some in the crowd insisted that the ministry was going to become the “headquarters of the revolution” in the country.
Big day in #Beirut Lebanon: Anti-Gov Protests across capital, 5 Parliamentarians Resigned and Protestors took over Foreign Ministry.Red Cross count: 22 hospitalized, 96 treated at location. Video from Foreign Ministry after takeover: pic.twitter.com/gxdHHocssq
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) August 8, 2020
The protesters were filmed destroying a portrait of President Michel Aoun, seen by many as the face of the ruling class which led the country into political and economic crisis.
The angry crowd also stormed the Ministry of Economy and Trade. Video clips show fires burning inside the building and people throwing papers out of windows.
The Ministry of Environment plus the Water and Energy Ministry were also occupied by protesters.
A local paper reported that “a smash and burn operation” was underway at the office of the country’s Banking Association.
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