The expected protests and riots have broken out in Beirut at the end of a week in which families mourned the over 150 killed in Tuesday’s blast centered on the port, which it’s now been revealed was the result of years of negligence by authorities who allowed 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate to be unsafely stored right alongside a large stash of impounded fireworks.
— Firas Maksad (@FirasMaksad) August 8, 2020
Like the years-long banking crisis, the government is seen as directly responsible for this week’s epic tragedy, also given the lengthy paper trail showing multiple officials and entities begged the government to do something about the explosive substance stored so near a densely populated area.
But Lebanese now taking to the streets this weekend could care less about the fine points buck passing among the political class as now a tsunami of rage is being unleashed, additionally as the economy is in shambles with record unemployment.
On Saturday local TV stations showed footage of thousands of protesters occupying at least four government ministry buildings in downtown Beirut.
This time we're not going anywhere pic.twitter.com/tIqukej8IH
— Nizar Hassan || ???? ??? (@Nizhsn) August 8, 2020
An estimated ten thousand clashed with police, which reportedly involved shots fired, in mayhem that also left at least one police officer dead.
And Reuters reports that the country’s banking sector remains target of the people’s rage:
“Lebanese protesters stormed government ministries in Beirut and trashed the offices of the Association of Lebanese Banks on Saturday, TV footage showed, as shots were fired in growing protests over this week’s devastating explosion,” according to the report.
Already the growing number of injuries are an indicator of just how fierce this round of protests promises to be:
The Red Cross said it had treated 117 people for injuries on the scene while another 55 were taken to hospital. A fire broke out in central Martyrs’ Square.
Dozens of protesters broke into the foreign ministry where they burnt a framed portrait of President Michel Aoun, representative for many of a political class that has ruled Lebanon for decades and that they say is to blame for its deep political and economic crises.
It appears that going into the night the ministries now “taken over” the protesters include the Foreign Affairs, Environment, and Energy ministry buildings, as well as the Ministry of Economy.
Chants of “the people want the fall of the regime” as well as the burning of portraits of top Lebanese leaders and politicians, such as of President Michel Aoun could be observed during mass demonstrations at Martyr’s Square.
Massive, massive anti-government protests in Beirut today.
— Joshua Potash (@JoshuaPotash) August 8, 2020
Responding to the pressure and popular anger, Prime Minister Hassan Diab called for early parliamentary elections and a two month transition period.
“We cannot get out of this crisis without early parliamentary elections,” Diab said in a televised address.
Breaking: Video shows the scene of anti-government protests in Beirut, Lebanon. Over 100 protesters have been injured during the protests. pic.twitter.com/YXmBsX7hyo
— PM Breaking News (@PMBreakingNews) August 8, 2020
Reuters describes further of Saturday’s mayhem in the streets:
The protesters said their politicians should be hanged and punished over their negligence that they say led to Tuesday’s gigantic explosion that killed 158 people and injured more than 6,000.
The protesters chanted , reprising a popular chant from the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011. They held posters saying “Leave, you are all killers”.
Lebanon is still at the height of abanking and currency crisis which previously saw unprecedented restrictions put on patrons of banks: they couldn’t draw from their own savings accounts on fears of a run on cash (specifically the dollar), and had strict controls put on external transfers out of the country. This as the local Lebanese lira had effectively collapsed.
Lebanese officials estimate that the explosion resulted in between three and five billion dollars worth of destruction, and many thousands of people left homeless given whole buildings were destroyed.
Craziest Beirut explosion angle pic.twitter.com/jTXstVCMB1
— ? Josh Lekach ? (@JoshLekach) August 7, 2020
One thing is for certain: expect much more protests and unrest to come.