Lebanese protesters stormed government ministries in Beirut over the massive explosion and clashed for hours with police forces, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. A police officer was killed, and dozens of people hurt in the conflict. The protesters said Beirut politicians should resign and be punished for the negligence that led to the explosion, which killed 158 and injured more than 6,000 compounding months of political and economic meltdown.
About 10,000 people gathered for the protest against the government. Security officers fired tear gas when some protesters tried to break through the police barriers that lead to the legislature.
“Leave, You are all Killers” – Protesters
TV footage showed the protesters also broke into the energy and economy ministries. Protesters chanted, “the people want the fall of the regime,” their posters said, “Leave, you are all killers.”
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Activists made symbolic nooses at Beirut’s Martyr’s Square to hang the politicians, whom the protesters accuse of the blast. A demonstrator said over a megaphone, “We are staying here. We call on the Lebanese people to occupy all the ministries.”
The US Embassy in Beirut tweeted the US government supported the demonstrator’s right to peaceful protest and urged all involved to refrain from violence. The Embassy also tweeted, saying the Lebanese people deserved leaders who listen to them and change course to respond to popular demands for transparency and accountability”.
The blast was caused by thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate that had been dangerously stored at Beirut port for more than six years. Triggered by a fire, the devastating explosion was by far the largest in Lebanon’s history and resulted in an estimated $10 billion to 15 billion in damage. The blast damaged 6,200 buildings and left nearly 300,000 homeless.
The protest took place on the eve of an international conference call in aid for Lebanon co-hosted by French President Emmanual Macron and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Emmanuel Macron visited Beirut on Thursday, promised the aid to rebuild the city would not go into “corrupt hands.”