Lebanese protesters face off with security forces in Beirut

AP News
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Posted: Sep 20, 2015 4:14 PM
Lebanese protesters face off with security forces in Beirut

BEIRUT (AP) — Hundreds of Lebanese protesters pushed through a security cordon as they marched toward parliament on Sunday, the latest in a series of demonstrations that began with a trash crisis but has since expanded to target the country's political class.

Thousands marched through the streets of Beirut earlier in the day to press their demands for holding government officials accountable and new parliamentary elections. They also called for a sustainable solution to the trash piling in the streets of Beirut.

Security forces blocked off streets leading to the parliament building, the final destination of the rally. The protesters raised their hands in the air to show they were unarmed, chanting "peaceful."

"The people are the source of authority," protest organizer Ajwad Ayyash told the crowd, which was thinning by evening. "This is the square of the people. And we insist we must enter it so that we can have elections."

The square, Place de l'Etoile, is outside the parliament building. Lebanon's parliament has extended its term twice in a controversial move amid disputes over a new election law. The last elections were in 2009.

After more than an hour of standoff and some scuffles, protesters broke through the cordon. Police let them into the street leading to the square and the parliament, but set up a new cordon closer to the parliament building. Additional security forces were deployed as tension grew.

What started in July as protests against trash piling in the streets is turning into Lebanon's largest protest movement in years, targeting an entire political class. The movement is growing to include different groups with varied grievances about government dysfunction. There has been recurrent friction between police and protesters.

Earlier Sunday, angry supporters of the parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, attacked a group of protesters waving a photo of him and accusing him and others of corruption. The brawl ended with the arrest of a Berri supporter who had jabbed a protester with a knife.