Riot police swept into Beirut's Riad al-Solh Square late Saturday evening and attempted to drive out protesters who had gathered to rally against government incompetence. Activists who remained in the square were arrested, and in some cases, beaten by police.
Some of protestors trying to provoke police by stoning them — Hasan Esen (@Byrthsn)August 29, 2015
The forces arrived shortly after protesters, who have organized under the rallying cry "You stink!" — a nod to Beirut's ongoing garbage crisis — called for the country's environment minister to resign, and threatened to "escalate" their protests if the government did not respond within 72 hours.
Related: In Photos: Beirut's Massive, Mounting Trash Problem
Earlier in the day, the atmosphere was peaceful and festive as thousands of protesters cheered and chanted in downtown Beirut, reiterating the demands they have been making for more than a week. "We are making a point. For once, we won't be silent anymore," 28-year-old protester Maya Mahfouz, a TV producer, told the Associated Press.
Related: Beirut Riot Police Fire Live Ammo and Blast Protesters With Water Cannons
Saturday's demonstration attracted the largest crowd yet: 10,000 according to police estimates, and as many as 40,000 according to protest organizers. Frustration with Lebanon's intractable political system crystallized into action after the city's main landfill closed in July, politicians failed to find a solution, and garbage began piling up in the streets.
The trash is just one small part of protesters' grievances. They are also frustrated by the government's failure to provide basic services — such as water and power — and citizens have been insistent in their demands for new elections for parliament and the presidency.
"We are still in the beginning," Rasha Halabi, a spokeswoman for the You Stink! movement declared on Saturday, to resounding cheers from the crowd.
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