BEIRUT: Organizers of the “You stink” protests that have captivated the Lebanese capital postponed demonstrations set for Monday evening after a night of violent clashes with police during which dozens of protesters and police officers were wounded.
The Lebanese army took up positions in and around downtown Beirut, scene of the protests, stationing armored personnel carriers on street corners.
The protests, sparked by a garbage-collection crisis that has left trash piled in the streets for weeks, have grown into a grassroots movement demanding the resignation of the entire government and an end to the country’s dysfunctional sectarian system.
What started as peaceful protests last week turned violent over the weekend after a small group of young men tried repeatedly tried to tear down a barbed wire fence separating the crowds from the Lebanese government building.
Sporadic gunfire could be heard in the capital’s commercial district into the night Sunday as police fired in the air to disperse those who remained after officers used tear gas and water cannons against the crowds. A few remaining protesters later set tires ablaze in Martyrs’ Square, with some even pulling down trees, smashing windows and traffic lights.
Workers were seen sweeping glass and other objects that were set on fire from the streets Monday.
The organizers of the protest say they have been infiltrated by political elements and thugs to discredit their peaceful movement. They announced the cancellation of protests planned for Monday on their You Stink movement’s Facebook page, saying they would hold a news conference later in the day to explain their decision.
Lebanon has been plagued by government paralysis that has left the country without a president for more than a year.