Thousands in Lebanon protest economy

BEIRUT — Thousands of Lebanese took to the streets over the economic crisis Saturday. Protesters poured out of mosques to gather in central Beirut as part of an “Open Show of Strength” that is…

Thousands in Lebanon protest economy

BEIRUT — Thousands of Lebanese took to the streets over the economic crisis Saturday.

Protesters poured out of mosques to gather in central Beirut as part of an “Open Show of Strength” that is the latest protest movement against the government. The crowds marched up some of the country’s main arteries to block traffic.

They carried signs and chanted that politicians must resign.

The chants and marches followed a big political rally Saturday in Beirut as many Lebanese protest the sinking economy. Protesters holding posters of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, which one member told the AP are burning, stormed the premises of the LBC television station and broke into the offices of the show “Kilo 30,” claiming the hosts made political statements on the air.

The show hosts denied they made political statements.

Some of the marchers were especially angry because the budget is only 2 percent of Lebanon’s GDP.

They chanted “life is meant to be shared, not sacrificed,” referring to a 1980s slogan.

Protesters later stormed the offices of the Interior Ministry and the Finance Ministry.

Police arrested about eight of the protesters, including a chief and an officer of the Justice Ministry. Police have also arrested an activist of the Free Patriotic Movement, a party led by Saad Hariri’s Future Movement.

The clashes with police erupted after the protesters hurled stones at the offices of Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Protesters are demanding “deep reform” to the economy and protesting against high prices and the loss of jobs due to corruption and the over-reliance on foreign aid.

Thousands of protesters gathered in central Beirut on Saturday to vent their anger over a funding crisis and the economic situation in the country.

“We are tired, we want life to be shared,” shouted some protesters at the protest. “There is no government and no road (closure) on our calendars.”

The streets were festooned with banners condemning corruption, criticizing the “slow pace of reforms” and protesting against “the ongoing dark period of domestic and foreign crises.”

It was the latest act of civil disobedience by young Lebanese in their fury over soaring prices and the loss of thousands of jobs. The increase in the gasoline price has, in particular, touched a raw nerve among many people in Lebanon, where wages have stagnated and many struggle to find work, especially when the economy is threatened by political upheaval, such as the current Syria conflict.

Lebanon, which depends heavily on foreign aid, does not have a government, after Lebanon’s Cabinet collapsed last month. An interim Cabinet is under way.

“Even with the Lebanese government, there will always be corruption. Why have we not been punished yet?” said Walid Humadi, a 22-year-old student.

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