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Beirut Riot Police Fire Live Ammo and Blast Protesters With Water Cannons

At least 15 people were wounded as demonstrators took to the streets to express frustration over the city’s increasingly noxious garbage problem.

by VICE News
Aug 22 2015, 9:30pm

Photo par Wael Hamzeh/EPA

Riot cops in Beirut fired tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons, and live ammunition at protesters as the public's simmering anger over an ongoing garbage crisis in the city boiled over on Saturday.

At least 15 people were wounded during the demonstrations, including one individual left in critical condition, according to the Red Cross. Local police told the Daily Star that 35 officers were wounded in the fracas.

Clashes between police and protesters were expected to continue into the night as demonstrators set up camp Beirut's central Martyrs Square, pledging they would not leave until fellow protesters were released from police custody.

Related: Lebanon's BMX-Riding Preacher Arrested After Two Years On the Run

Protesters clash with riot police near the Lebanese Government Palace in downtown Beirut on August 22, 2015. (Photos by Wael Hamzeh/EPA)

Thousands turned out on Saturday to express their frustration with an intractable political system and an increasingly noxious garbage problem.

Residents have taken to burning their trash in the streets in the five weeks since the capital city's main landfill was closed. Earlier this week, Lebanon's health minister warned the country was approaching a "major health disaster" if its waste management problem was not fixed soon.

The garbage crisis gave the protest its rallying cry: "You Stink!" or "You Reek!" depending on the translation. It's an insult directed at the politicians who have failed to produce a solution to deal with mounting piles of garbage in Beirut's streets. On Saturday, at least one protester was spotted carrying a sign that read "Some trash should NOT be recycled," above photos of Lebanese politicians.

Related: In Photos: Beirut's Massive, Mounting Trash Problem

In an interview with the television station Al-Jadeed, Interior Minister Mohammad Machnouk promised that officers who used live ammunition would be held accountable. He also committed to resolve the garbage crisis at cabinet meeting set to take place next week.

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