A rescuer and demonstrators help a man who collapsed following a police operation in downtown Beirut. Reuters
With no climbdown in sight by the protesters calling for reforms in Lebanon, which is in its second week, the Lebanese army reached the end of their tether. They forcibly evicted demonstrators who refused to move from roadblocks in central Beirut.
But on the coastal highway to the north, the crowds scuppered a move by the security forces to remove the roadblocks with a bulldozer.
Just before the security forces moved in on Saturday, two women and two men were manning the roadblock on the ring road. They said they have been at the roadblock for 10 days and have no plan to dismantle it but added that they would not fight the army. They let through an ambulance and a motorcycle.
"This is an uprising of a people who have been suffering for the last 30 years and can no longer tolerate their lies, theft and hypocrisy," said 29-year-old Rima, who was manning the roadblock, referring to the government. "We are protesting. We are not vandalising or violent." Rima declined to give her last name, worried about her safety.
To the south, Lebanese soldiers removed chairs and tents set up in the middle of the intersection that links Beirut to the presidential palace, the mountain overlooking the city, the east and suburbs of Beirut.
The protesters did not resist but one broke into tears, telling the local LBC television station that he was disappointed the army had to force them to remove the roadblocks.
The angry Lebanese people had set up several roadblocks around Beirut and on major highways to force those helming the nation’s affairs to step down.
When the riot police moved in to clear the roadblocks on the ring road that links eastern and western Beirut, many protesters sat or lay down on the tarmac in defiance.
Some protesters chanted: "The people want to bring down the regime."
"We are no bandits," cried one man. "We have rights and are asking for them."
Pushing and shoving, the security forces successfully opened the road and traffic flowed through. In another part of Lebanon, the army removed a roadblock without incident.
The forces warned that blocking roads was in violation of the law. The head of Lebanon's powerful militant Hezbollah group, Hassan Nasrallah, called on protesters to open the roads in a speech on Friday.
The protests have paralysed the country, which already faces a major economic crisis. Banks, universities and schools have been closed since last week.
But the unprecedented demonstrations have also brought together Lebanese from all sects and political affiliation, uniting them in a common demand that long-serving politicians, accused of corruption and mismanagement, step down.
Squares in Beirut and other cities have filled up in a spontaneous expression of anger at the country's political elite. A common chant, "All means all," has demanded all incumbent officials step down.
Nasrallah ordered his supporters to leave the protests on Friday after they clashed with anti-government protesters who criticised him.
A man was killed by a Lebanese soldier during Tuesday night protests, marking the first such fatality since nationwide demonstrations engulfed the country on Oct. 17.
After protesters marched in Beirut, Tripoli and other cities, Samir Geagea, head of the Lebanese forces party, said his group was resigning from the government.
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