Riot police clear protesters occupying Beirut ministry 

Activists had said they would ‘occupy the ministry until [Minister Mohammad] Machnouk steps down’ [AP]

Security forces have violently removed about 30 protesters from Lebanon’s “You Stink!” movement who had stormed the Ministry of Environment in Beirut and begun a sit-in.

The activists had said they would “occupy the ministry until [Minister Mohammad] Machnouk steps down”.

Machnouk left the ministry building through a backdoor after protestors were forcibly taken out by security forces.

The protesters had lined themselves along the hallways of the ministry, sitting on the floor, chanting for the minister to step down and singing the national anthem.

Security forces intitially cordoned off the area and blocked access to journalists.

One protestor who had just been released from inside the ministry, told Al Jadeed TV, a local news channel, that they were beaten by the police on their way out.

“We had a peaceful sit-in. After hours of threats, they cut out the electricity and turned off the AC’s, and later closed all doors and trapped us inside,” he said.

“No one left willingly. They lied to us and told us your friends have left the building after they divided us into two groups.”

Marwan Maalouf, one of the last protestors to be removed from the ministry, told reporters outside the compound: “We saw today that this government does not want to listen to the people, they want to continue along their own path and ignore the voices of the people.”

There were also clashes with riot police outside the compound, with many protestors refusing to leave.

‘We were peaceful’

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Pierre Hachache, a protestor inside the ministry, told Al Jazeera that the police had started beating the protestors and journalists who were inside the building.

“We were peaceful. We didn’t do anything,” Hachache said.

Lucien Bou Rjeilly, one of the campaign spokespersons, was beaten badly by the police and reportedly ended up with broken shoulders.

There had been about 20 protesters inside the ministry’s compound and about 30 inside the ministry building itself.

The Red Cross had earlier delivered water to those taking part in the sit-in.

Lebanon has faced increasing protests over the past few weeks over the ongoing rubbish standoff, which has seen tonnes of rubbish piled up on the streets for over a month, as the government struggles to find a solution to the problem.

Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets over the rubbish crisis, as well as what they call the government’s failure to provide basic services such as electricity and water, and ongoing political corruption.

Protests turned violent two weeks ago after security forces opened fire and beat protesters, as well as using tear gas and water cannons against them in central Beirut.

One protester is still in intensive care, and several hundred others were injured. Dozens more were arrested.


OPINION: Protests in Lebanon reflect the disease, not the cure


Demands made by the protesters on Tuesday also included holding the minister of interior accountable for the use of force by security forces against protesters in previous demonstrations, and decentralising waste management to local municipalities.

The March 14 Future Movement condemned the protestors for “storming the ministry of environment,” claiming such methods “serves the interests of those seeking to create chaos in the country.”

On Monday, Machnouk resigned from the parliamentary crisis cell created to deal with the waste management issue, but refused to step down from his position, stating the responsibility for solving the issue was not just his and it was not his time to resign from the government.

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