Authorities eject ministry protesters in Beirut

Lebanese protesters stormed the Environment Ministry earlier today over the country's garbage crisis

Shounaz Meky

Published: Updated:

Lebanese police have begun forcibly removing protesters who stormed the Ministry of Environment in downtown Beirut earlier on Tuesday, an activist told Al Arabiya News.

The country’s interior minister gave the protesters 30 minutes to clear the building, the channel quoted him as saying.

There were about 50 protesters inside the ministry building, the whereabouts of at least 30 remain unknown, an activist from the movement known as “You Stink” told Al Arabiya News.

“…around 30 are not seen at all … we do not know if they were arrested or anything else has happened to them or if they were beaten or admitted to hospitals,” Hassan Shamas said Tuesday.

“We know two who were admitted to the American University of Beirut hospital,” he added. They both suffered serious injuries, according to Shamas.

Infographic: Protesters storm environment ministry in Beirut
Infographic: Protesters storm environment ministry in Beirut

Protesters stormed the building earlier, demanding the resignation of Environment Minister Mohammed Machnouk over the country’s trash crisis.

The group posted a video of themselves sitting on the floor, shouting slogans against Machnouk.

"Out, out, out," they shouted during the protests Tuesday.

Machnouk was reportedly trapped in his office inside the ministry building besieged by protesters, Al Arabiya’s correspondent reported.

The move came hours ahead of a deadline set by the campaign for the government to respond to their demands after a massive weekend demonstration.

“We gave the minister a specific ultimatum to resign, this failed minister has to leave,” Shamas said.

“We are the people and he is a minister, the minister is the one to leave not the people.”

“Escalation will continue until the minister resigns, the ministry of interior is not immune to that,” he added.

Police managed to 'evacuated by force' around 14 demonstrators who were still inside the building and were refusing to leave, insisting police would have to handcuff and remove them by force, Al Arabiya’s correspondent reported.

Protestors gesture from a window of the environment ministry in downtown Beirut, Lebanon September 1, 2015. Reuters
Protestors gesture from a window of the environment ministry in downtown Beirut, Lebanon September 1, 2015. Reuters

The "You Stink" campaign began in response to a trash crisis that erupted with the closure of Lebanon's largest landfill in mid-July.

But it has evolved into an outlet for deep-seated frustrations over Lebanon's crumbling infrastructure and stagnant political class.

Last week, the campaign set out four key demands: the resignation of Machnouk, new parliamentary elections, the devolvement of trash collection duties to municipalities and accountability for violence against protesters.

Machnouk has refused, resigning only from a government committee assigned to resolve the trash crisis.

The group said Saturday after a massive protest that the government had 72 hours to respond to its demands, with that deadline set to expire on Tuesday night.

(with Reuters, AFP and the Associated Press)