Clashes broke out at protests in Beirut Sunday over continuing allegations of corruption and the government's failure to dispose of the city's trash. Fights broke out between pro-government and anti-government protesters, with some alleging police joined in the violence.
Around 1,000 people began marching from an eastern suburb of Beirut to the central area of the nation's capital to demand the government intervene in a garbage crisis that has been unfolding for more than two months. Several hundred government supporters were waiting in Martyr's Square in downtown Beirut when the anti-government group arrived.
Pro-government groups were holding signs depicting members of the nation's leadership, and insults were exchanged, Lebanese newspaper the Daily Star reported Sunday. The two groups began brawling, the newspaper said, but the extent of the injuries is not yet known.
— Habib Battah (@habib_b) September 20, 2015
You Stink, an activist group that catalyzed in the midst of the trash crisis, organized the original march. The You Stink protests sprang from anger about the political gridlock that led to the lack of trash collection, one of few reliable government services in Lebanon. Demonstrators have said the latest garbage debacle was the final straw in ongoing alleged corruption in Beirut among major leaders. Many Lebanese citizens have called for the resignation of President Michel Suleiman, especially as accusations of police violence grew more frequent throughout the summer.
Lebanese authorities say they have defended the demonstrators while putting the emphasis on the need for security above all. "Demonstrations and freedom of expression, under the ceiling of law, is a right guaranteed by the Lebanese Constitution," said Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk Sunday, the Daily Star reported. Machnouk also said no act of free expression should undermine the safety of the larger populace.