Security Forces Clash with Protesters Ahead of Parliament Session
Security forces, including riot police, parliament police and army special forces, clashed with protesters who were attempting to block entrances to parliament in downtown Beirut ahead of a parliamentary session to discuss the 2020 budget. Videos circulating on social media showed security forces launching tear gas, firing rubber bullets, and beating protesters at several entrances, including near Riad al-Solh, near the Le Grey hotel, and near Fransabank on Bab Idriss street.
Sunniva Rose, a journalist covering the events, told Human Rights Watch that she observed some protesters throwing rocks and water bottles at security forces near the Le Grey hotel. She said riot police advanced towards protesters, beating some and firing tear gas to disperse them. Rose said that she saw a young man with blood all over his face, apparently after security forces beat him.
A witness near the parliament entrance at Riad al-Solh told Human Rights Watch that he saw security forces firing rubber bullets without warning from behind the barricades that they had set up after a few protesters tried to kick down a metal barrier. He saw one bullet hit a woman standing nearby in the leg, causing her to fall to the ground screaming in pain.
The Lebanese Red Cross stated that as of 1 p.m., it had transported 8 people to nearby hospitals and treated 19 injured at the scene. The Lawyers’ Committee for the Defense of Protesters said that 11 protesters were arrested during today’s scuffles outside parliament, and that some protesters alleged that riot police beat them during the arrest. The committee stated that four detainees were released shortly after their arrest and went to hospitals for treatment.
Kareem Chehayeb, a local journalist and researcher, told Human Rights Watch that protesters tried to obstruct the session because they believe that the 2020 budget, which had been drafted and agreed upon by the government of the former Prime Minister Saad Hariri in October, needs to be revised, given the drastic changes in the economic situation. Several political parties, arguing that the session was unconstitutional, boycotted the session, saying the new government should have first won a vote of confidence in parliament.
Parliamentarians passed the 2020 budget after a secret vote, three months into mass protests demanding accountability and greater transparency in decision-making.
— أخبار الساحة (@Akhbaralsaha) January 27, 2020