Lebanese police attack protesters at Beirut anti-budget demonstration
Lebanese protesters were attacked by riot police near the parliament downtown Beirut on Monday, as lawmakers are scheduled to begin a two-day discussion and later approval of the state budget amid a crippling financial crisis.
Thousands of soldiers, including special forces, as well as riot policemen were deployed on major roads in the capital and its suburbs.
They had sealed off the zone leading to parliament to prevent protesters from blocking MPs' path. Protesters blocked roads further afield to prevent lawmakers from reaching the building.
During the two-day session, parliament is scheduled to discuss the 2020 budget that was drafted by the government of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who resigned in late October in response to the nationwide protests.
The tight security measures underscored determination to hold the two budget sessions despite the protests.
In November, thousands of protesters closed roads leading to parliament, forcing a postponement of a legislative session after most lawmakers couldn't reach the legislature.
In recent days, security forces have set up concrete blast walls around parliament and the nearby government headquarters, known as the Grand Serial, to keep protesters from reaching them.
Over the past two weeks, more than 500 civilians and policemen were injured as police assaulted protesters.
Earlier this month, investigation was opened after a video was shared on social media that showed police beating people, believed to be protesters, as they were brought to a Beirut police station.
Filmmaker Lucien Bourjeily joined the angry chorus online and posted a selfie on Twitter to show solidarity with the protesters using the hashtag.
Bourjeily criticised the security forces for targeting demonstrators with weapons that could cause serious and irreversible harm.
The uprising broke out on 17 October over government plans to impose new taxes.
Protest organisers say the movement will not accept anything less that the resignation of the ruling elite, who they blame for widespread corruption and mismanagement.
Lebanon has one of the world's highest public debts in the world, standing at more than 150 percent of gross domestic product.
Growth has plummeted and the budget deficit reached 11 percent of GDP in 2018 as economic activities slowed and remittances from Lebanese living abroad shrank.
The national currency that has been pegged to the dollar since 1997 lost about 60 percent of its value in recent weeks, raising alarms among many Lebanese who have been losing their purchase power.
The former government had hopes to bring down the budget deficit to 7.6 percent of the GDP in 2019 year and to 6.5 percent in 2020.
Agencies contributed to this report.