Police Fire Water Cannons as Beirut Protests Turn Violent

It was the second consecutive night of violent protests in the heart of the Lebanese capital

A demonstrator is hit by a water cannon during a protest against a ruling elite accused of steering Lebanon towards economic crisis in Beirut, Lebanon January 19, 2020
REUTERS/Aziz Taher

Lebanese security forces fired water cannons on Sunday at demonstrators who had been hurling projectiles at them near parliament in central Beirut, live television footage showed.

It was the second consecutive night of violent protests in the heart of the Lebanese capital.

 Lebanese first responders treated more than 370 people for injuries during several hours of clashes between security forces and protesters that rocked central Beirut on Saturday night.

It was the highest toll on the most violent night since largely peaceful protests erupted across Lebanon in October. As the country sinks deeper into an economic crisis, anger has boiled over at a ruling elite who have dominated power since the 1975-1990 civil war.

Crowds spilled back on to the street near parliament on Sunday. "We're not scared. This is all for our future and our children," said Bassam Taleb, a shoemaker at the protest.

"The country is frozen. The state is not doing a thing, they're a bunch of thieves. And if you have money in the bank, you can't even get a hundred dollars out."

People have also turned their ire on the banks - which have curbed access to savings - with some smashing the facade of the banking association on Saturday night.

The Lebanese Red Cross said it had treated 220 people who were wounded on both sides on Saturday, taking 80 of them to hospital. The Civil Defence said it had given first aid to 114 others and taken 43 people to hospital.

The Internal Security Forces said 142 police were injured.

Smoke had enveloped a commercial district of the capital as police fired volleys of tear gas and unleashed water cannons. They chased after hundreds of men and women near Lebanon's parliament late into the night.