Beirut - Hundreds of Lebanese protested against deteriorating economic conditions Sunday, with some briefly scuffling with army troops, as public anger mounts against politicians deadlocked over forming a new government since May.
The army appealed for calm in a statement, urging protesters to remain peaceful.
The protesters marched to the government building in central Beirut, carrying placards that called for an end to the deadlock and corruption. Some protesters sported the yellow vests worn by anti-government protesters in France. The call for the protests began on social media, with some using the symbol of a yellow vest with a cedar tree, a national symbol that appears on the country’s flag.
The protests grew rowdy and angry protesters pelted security forces with water bottles.
Security forces deployed, setting up barricades separating them from the protesters in a standoff that locked down the city centre. By mid-afternoon, the demonstration began to fizzle but scores of protesters marched to a commercial district in Beirut, chanting “revolution” and urging others to join them. Some protesters tried to block roads, using dumpsters and iron rods to stop traffic.
Local media and TV stations aired footage of army personnel chasing protesters when the scuffles broke out.
The army’s statement said it would not tolerate attacks on public property.
Two local media outlets, Al Jadeed TV and the Daily Star newspaper, said their reporters were attacked by security forces. Al Jadeed said its cameraman’s arm was broken and his camera smashed.
The scuffles in Beirut prompted a smaller, calmer solidarity rally in the southern town of Nabatiyeh.
Protests have spread in recent weeks as rival politicians have failed to form a new government following parliamentary elections in May.
Highly publicised efforts to form a compromise national unity government faltered Saturday, fueling the protesters’ anger the following day.
Demonstrators chanted: “The people want to bring down the regime,” a slogan from the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.
The protesters, who said they didn’t represent any particular political party, demanded improved health care, jobs and an end to corruption.
“We want a government,” shouted one protester to a TV reporter.
“I am here to fight against the corruption of the state. We are here to bring back our social services. We need our rights. We need to live as human beings. We need that our government respects us,” said Michel Al Hajj, another protester.
Lebanon’s political system is sectarian. Religious factions share power to maintain a delicate balance years after the country’s civil war ended in 1990.
But politicians are divided, among other issues, over the war in neighbouring Syria, often paralysing decision-making in Lebanon.