Entering Beirut: the journey into a city on the brink
An eery calm has blanketed the Lebanese capital as protesters prepare for another day of rallies,
Willy Lowry reports
I’ve been coming in and out of Beirut for more than a decade now. Never have I seen the roads so empty as they were today. Hopping into the taxi, my driver immediately warned me the drive could take much longer than normal. “Yesterday,” he said, “the drive took hours.” But exiting the airport it became clear that an eery calm had blanketed the city.
Debris littered the road and the charred remains of streets signs were strewn about. But the chaos of yesterday had subsided at least momentarily. Before I had even realised it, we were nearing downtown in record time.
Things got a little more complicated as I approached my hotel. The neighborhood I’m staying in looks over Martyr’s Square and is not far from where the protesters have been gathering.
As we grew closer and closer to my hotel the driver became increasingly frustrated. Side streets were blocked and there was no way to navigate through the winding alleyways of the city.
I was forced to walk the last 500 metres. As I exited the car a hint of tear gas still filled the air. Down the street, crowds were gathering for another afternoon of demonstrations.
Two days of protests have Beirut on edge. People I've spoken to say it feels different than previous protests.
Clashes between demonstrators and security forces have turned violent at times and it doesn’t look like it will relent any time soon.
A protester throws a tyre on to a fire to block a road during a protest in north of Beirut, Lebanon. EPA
Demonstrators sit together during a protest over deteriorating economic situation, in the city of Jounieh, north of Beirut. Reuters
Demonstrators gather in Sidon, Lebanon. Reuters
Lebanese riot police fire tear gas. AP Photo
Protesters shout anti-government slogans in front of the Government Palace in downtown Beirut. EPA
Thousands of protesters, mainly civil activists, condemned the proposed taxes that would go along with the 2020 budget, especially an unexpected government plan to impose a fee for using WhatsApp calls. EPA
Public anger has simmered since parliament passed an austerity budget in July to help trim a ballooning deficit. EPA
Protesters in the capital blocked the road to the airport with burning tyres, prompting a heavy deployment by security forces. EPA
A crows of demonstrators faces police. EPA
Lebanese demonstrators gather during a protest in Zouk Mikael. AFP
Lebanese army convoy waits for a blocked road to be open. EPA
An anti-government protester walks between burning tyres in Beirut, Lebanon. AP Photo
Demonstrators run as they hold tyres during a protest over the deteriorating economic situation, in Dora, Lebanon. Reuters
Lebanese demonstrators take a selfie during the protest. AFP
Passengers walk to the airport after anti-government protesters blocked the road. AP Photo
Anti-government protesters hold a placard with Arabic that reads "Revolution," as shout slogans against the Lebanese government. AP Photo
A protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask looks in Beirut's Salim Slem neighbourhood. AFP
Lebanese demonstrators wave the national flag during a protest against dire economic conditions in downtown Beirut. AFP
Updated: October 19, 2019 05:12 PM