Dozens injured in weekend demonstrations at Martyrs’ Square; Macron holds donors conference
Some Lebanese called on Sunday for a sustained uprising to topple their leaders amid public fury over last week’s devastating explosion in Beirut, and the country’s top Christian Maronite cleric said the Cabinet should resign. Meanwhile, hosting an emergency donors conference, French President Emmanuel Macron said world powers must put aside their differences and support the Lebanese people, whose country’s future is at stake.
“Despite differences in view, everyone must come to the help of Lebanon and its people,” he said via video-link from his summer retreat on the French Riviera. “Our task today is to act swiftly and efficiently.”
Mr. Macron visited Beirut on Thursday, the first world leader to do so after the explosion, and promised humanitarian aid would come but that profound political reform was needed to resolve the country’s problems and secure longer term support.
Protesters have called on the government to quit over what they say was negligence that led to Tuesday’s explosion. Anger boiled over into violence scenes in central Beirut on Saturday.
‘Cabinet should resign’
Christian Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai said the Cabinet should resign if it cannot “change the way it governs”. “The resignation of an MP or a Minister is not enough (..) the whole government should resign if it is unable to help the country recover,” he said in his Sunday sermon.
Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad said she was resigning on Sunday, citing the explosion and the failure of the government to carry out reforms.
Dozens of people were injured in Saturday’s protests, the biggest since October when thousands of people took to the streets in protests against corruption, bad governance and mismanagement. About 10,000 people gathered at Martyrs’ Square, which was transformed into a battle zone in the evening between police and protesters who tried to break down a barrier along a road leading to Parliament.
Some demonstrators stormed government Ministries and the Association of Lebanese Banks. Demonstrators defied dozens of tear-gas canisters fired at them and hurled stones and firecrackers at riot police, some of whom were carried away to ambulances. One policeman was killed. The Red Cross said it had treated 117 people for injuries on the scene on Saturday while another 55 were taken to hospital.
Soldiers in vehicles mounted with machine guns were stationed beside Martyrs’ Square on Sunday. “People should sleep in the streets and demonstrate against the government until it falls,” said lawyer Maya Habli.
The explosion killed 158 people and injured more than 6,000, destroying parts of the city and compounding months of political and economic meltdown. Twenty-one people were still reported as missing.