Protesters Keep Roads Blocked as Lebanon Rallies Continue for 6th Day
Lebanese protesters have set up barricades in the streets around their central rallying point in Beirut Tuesday as security forces attempted to persuade them to reopen roads across the country through peaceful means.
A security source stressed to Reuters that they will not resort to force as the country remained paralyzed by anti-government demonstrations.
Hundreds of thousands of people have flooded streets across Lebanon since Thursday, furious at a political class they accuse of pushing the economy to the point of collapse.
Banks and schools remained shut on Tuesday. Early in the morning, the number of protesters in central Beirut and the northern city of Tripoli appeared smaller than on previous days.
The protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful since Friday evening when some demonstrators clashed with the security forces in central Beirut.
Late on Monday, soldiers skirmished in Beirut with young men on motorcycles holding the flags of the Hezbollah and Amal movements. Both parties denied any role.
Some main roads had reopened on Tuesday but they remained blocked in some areas.
The security source would seek to convince protesters on the need to open main roads.
“If they are convinced, so be it, if they are not the roads will remain closed,” the source said. Some roads had been reopened in the south, the source added.
“We will not clash with the protesters and make a problem on the ground,” the source said.
Aiming to defuse anger at the political elite and dire economic conditions, the government led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced a set of measures on Monday including long-delayed reforms he said aimed to fight corruption and waste.
The protesters have dismissed the reforms and are insisting the government step down.
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt, who has ministers in cabinet, also chimed in and criticized the reforms as "weak drugs" that aim to buy time.
Lebanon faces a severe economic crisis. Hariri's proposed reforms include cutting top officials' salaries in half, overhauling the electricity sector and downsizing government institutions.
Investors said the turmoil showed Lebanon was running out of time to fix its economic problems. The country has one of the heaviest public debt burdens in the world.
The protests are the largest Lebanon has seen in 15 years and have united people across sectarian lines in their shared scorn for the government and political class.