Protest commemorating the one-year-mark of the Beirut blast. August 4, 2021 (Photo: Lynn Sheikh Moussa)

Security forces use excessive force against Beirut blast protesters

Internal security forces (ISF) used water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets in Downtown Beirut against protesters calling for accountability on the one-year-mark of the August 4 blast.

The Lebanese Red Cross announced it transported eight people injured in clashes in the area, in addition to three others wounded in nearby Gemmayze, while 45 were treated on site.

Thousands flocked to central Beirut and the nearby port to take part in mass demonstrations marking one year since the passing of the devastating Beirut blast, which decimated a fifth of the city, injured thousands and killed over 218.

Clashes between rock-throwing protesters and security officials guarding Parliament broke out in the afternoon, as frustrations over the lack of accountability mounted.

To disperse the crowd, security officials unlawfully utilised excessive amounts of tear gas –its effects felt hundreds of meters away by largely peaceful protesters.

Several on-site reported extremely strong tear gas, which they described as “insanely toxic” and “unlike any they had previously experienced before.”

Last year, on August 8, 2021, thousands flocked to central Beirut to protest the blast a mere few days after it happened. Protests began as peaceful demonstrations, with internal security forces once again dispersing rock-throwers by heavily firing tear gas.

The demonstrations soon turned violent as the ISF began to use water cannons, in addition to firing rubber bullets and live ammunition.

This year, three marches were organized by several parties, including the families of the victims of the blast, to commemorate the day. Demonstrators chanted angry chants, with many calling to “break the bones of politicians.” Many raised their banners, and read speeches calling for the lifting of immunity of senior officials and an impartial investigation into the matter so that the families victims’ may receive justice.

The Lebanese Forces held their own “vigil” in their headquarters near the port, which then reportedly led to armed clashes with the Lebanese Communist Party. Earlier on in the day, they held a ceremony near the port, where they beat a man until he bled due to his protests against them raising their flags.

At 6:07 PM, the exact time the ammonium nitrate exploded at the port, the city participated in a minute of silence, as sirens from nearby ambulances and firefighter trucks went off, and the Al-Amin mosque sounded a prayer call. Army helicopters also saluted the victims of the blast.

Demonstrators then flocked from the port towards Martyr’s Square in Downtown Beirut. Several attempted to get within the vicinity of Parliament in Nejmeh Square, but were met with massive amounts of tear gas and violence from the ISF and Parliament guards.

Some protestors succeeded in penetrating the Électricité du Liban building, and were then beaten by unidentified security forces. Four were detained and then released later on in the night.