BEIRUT: Lebanese police beat back protesters and arrested several others who gathered in downtown Beirut Wednesday as a second session of dialogue between politicians got underway, the latest confrontations this city has seen over the country’s summer trash crisis.
The small group of activists had gathered near the parliament building, where the meeting was to take place. Some of the protesters had brought eggs to pelt politicians’ convoys with while others tried to block the street.
Baton-wielding riot police soon clashed with the protesters, at one point dragging two protesters on the ground while violently beating them both. Ambulances rushed to the scene and took the wounded away.
A crisis over uncollected trash in the capital has ignited the largest Lebanese protests in years and has emerged as a festering symbol of the government’s paralysis and failure to provide basic services.
It was sparked by popular anger over the heaps of trash accumulating in Beirut’s streets after authorities closed the capital’s main landfill on July 17 and failed to provide an alternative.
The protests quickly moved beyond just the trash in the streets to target an entire political class that has dominated the country and undermined its growth since the civil war ended in 1990. Lebanon has a sectarian power-sharing system that often leads to incessant bickering and cronyism among the country’s politicians.
Thousands of people have taken part in huge demonstrations over the past two weeks. Among other things, they are demanding new parliamentary elections, to be followed by presidential elections.
The country has been without a president for over a year, and members of parliament have controversially extended their term twice amid disputes over an election law.