84 injured as protesters try to storm Lebanese parliament on blast anniversary
The anniversary of the 4 August Beirut port explosion was marred by violence, as hundreds of protesters attempted to storm parliament, with police responding by shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd, injuring at least 84.
Protesters descended on parliament in downtown Beirut, with chants of thawra (revolution) and “the people want the downfall of the regime.”
Lebanese army soldiers and Internal Security Forces (ISF) troops stayed within the parliaments’ grounds, holding off protesters by shooting tear gas and rubber bullets, as well as throwing stones and glass bottles, at the advancing crowd.
Demonstrators initially advanced on the parliament, throwing stones and fireworks at the police as they progressed. They cleared the barbed wire from one of the parliament’s entrances, and set fire to a guard post.
However, once ISF reinforcements arrived, the tide quickly turned. Rows of riot police, accompanied by a tank and two buses carrying water cannons, pushed protesters away from the Parliament and into Martyrs' Square, where Lebanon's October 2019 anti-government protests began.
The ISF detained protesters as they advanced. The New Arab's correspondent watched ISF troops arrest one protester, throw him to the ground, and take turns beating him with their batons.
The ISF then approached the protesters from two directions, surrounding them from the east and north entrances of Martyr’s Square, and slowly pushing them back towards the city’s main highway, where they dispersed.
One protester, Tala Majzoub, told The New Arab that after Wednesday’s nights events, she felt “defeated,” and as if she did not achieve anything through the protest.
“They stomped on us like roaches,” Majzoub said.
The protest followed an event held by the families of the victims of the Beirut port explosion to commemorate its one year anniversary.
Paul Naggear, whose three-year old daughter was killed in the blast last year, told a crowd of thousands of Lebanese that “those who gave politicians immunity betrayed us,” warning that “we know how to deal with traitors.”
Ibrahim Hoteit, the spokesperson for the victims’ families association, also spoke at the anniversary event, saying “the blood of the martyrs will not be in vain, even if I have to avenge them with my own hands.”
A year after the port explosion, nobody has been charged in connection with the event.
Judge Tarek Bitar, the official in charge of leading the investigation into the blast, had asked to interrogate several officials in relation to the blast but was rebuffed when the parliament and minister of interior refused to lift the judicial immunity which prevents those officials from being investigated.
On 3 August, Human Rights Watch released a landmark report which said that, among other things, Lebanese officials could be "guilty of homicide" over their handling of the explosive ammonium nitrate stored in Beirut's port.