Beirut – Security forces have fired tear gas and rubber bullets during clashes with stone-throwing demonstrators in Lebanon’s capital, amid mounting fury over the massive explosion that killed nearly 160 people.
More than 10,000 people gathered in Beirut Martyrs’ Square for demonstrations against the political elite, which quickly turned violent.
According to the Lebanese Red Cross, 110 people have been wounded and dozens taken to hospital during demonstrations.
Early on, riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators trying to break through a barrier to get to the parliament building.
Live coverage on local television stations showed several people bloodied.
As clashes began to worsen, a Lebanese policeman was reportedly killed.
‘Resignation or hang’
Dozens of protesters broke into the foreign ministry, where they burned a framed portrait of President Michel Aoun, representative for many of a political class that has ruled Lebanon for decades and which they said was to blame for its deep political and economic crises.
Activists who called for the protest set up symbolic nooses to hang politicians whose corruption and negligence they blame for the explosion, which was fuelled by thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate that had been improperly stored at the city’s port for more than six years.
Apparently set off by a fire, it was by far the biggest blast in Lebanon’s troubled history and caused billions of dollars’ worth of damage, according to Beirut’s Governor.
It also destroyed 6,200 buildings and left hundreds of thousands of people homeless.
Dozens were still missing and around 5,000 people injured.
“Resignation or hang,” read a banner held by protesters, who also planned to hold a symbolic funeral for the dead.
Khodr Ghadir, 23, said the noose was for everyone who has been in power for the past 30 years.
A placard listed the names of the dead, printed over a photo of the blast’s enormous pink mushroom cloud.
“We are here for you,” it read.