Are the days of good-natured demonstrations, in music and with the family, under the watchful eye of the security forces, gone for good in Lebanon? Protest rallies, held on Saturday January 18 and Sunday January 19 in central Beirut, were marked by brutal clashes with the security forces.
For two evenings in a row, the area around the Place de l'Etoile, where the Lebanese Parliament sits, was the scene of urban guerrilla scenes. Firecrackers and fireworks against tear gas, paving stones against stun grenades. Riot units even used rubber bullets for the first time, sometimes fired from very close range.
This escalation, the culmination of the “week of anger” decreed by the demonstrators, who denounce the apathy of the ruling class in the face of the economic downturn that is hitting their country, has resulted in a number of injured never seen since. the start of the dispute in mid-October 2019: more than 520 in two days, mainly in the ranks of the protesters but also in that of the security agents.
If the vast majority of victims were able to be rescued on the spot, several demonstrators, hit in the face by projectiles, had to be operated. The Hôtel-Dieu de France hospital treated in particular two young people in their twenties, seriously injured in the eyes, who were unknown on Sunday if they could recover their sight. The Internal Security Forces (ISF), on the front line against popular exasperation, deplored 142 wounded, including three seriously injured, including skull fractures.
On Tuesday, riot scenes, marked by the ransacking of several banks, symbols of the difficulties endured by the population, had already taken place on rue Hamra, the main shopping street in the west of the capital. The following day, the police had severely repressed a rally of a few hundred people, who came to demand in front of a police station the release of their relatives arrested during the clashes of the previous day. Several journalists had been beaten in the fray, which had led ISF chief Imad Othman to apologize.
"The power takes us for fools"
As the anti-system uprising enters its fourth month and the formation of the government of the Prime Minister-designate, Hassan Diab – the successor of Saad Hariri, overthrown in late October 2019 by the street – is still pending, violence is therefore invited in crisis. First rejected, this means of action is now openly demanded by some of the protesters, tired of the delaying tactics of the political class.