Downtown Beirut 'security' walls come down after independent MPs enter Lebanon parliament

Downtown Beirut 'security' walls come down after independent MPs enter Lebanon parliament
3 min read
23 May, 2022
Large cement walls erected around downtown Beirut to block protesters from reaching government buildings began coming down on Monday, as the new parliament is set to meet soon.
Protesters tried to bring down the walls several times, leading to clashes with riot police [Getty]

Work began on Monday to take down cement walls around the parliament building in downtown Beirut which were erected in the wake of large-scale demonstrations more than two years ago.

The walls that block several entries leading to government buildings in the heart of the Lebanese capital, such as Nejmeh Square where the parliament is located, are being taken down a week after the election.

Lebanon's parliamentary election on 15 May saw several newcomers win the vote, from both mainstream establishment parties as well as reformist anti-establishment alliances.

Lawmakers representing the so-called 17 October movement - the date when unprecedented nationwide protests erupted in 2019 in the face of a collapsing economy and rampant corruption - had called on Speaker Nabih Berri to take down the walls and move the meetings to the parliament building.

Sessions have been held at the more spacious UNESCO Palace in Beirut since the Covid-19 pandemic started.

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Interior Minister Bassam Al-Mawlawi, who was at the site where large cement blocks were being taken down, said it was the government's duty "to listen to the people."

"I got in touch with Speaker [Nabih] Berri, and we agreed that those who used to protest here [outside] are now inside the parliament," said Mawlawi.

Local television Al Jadeed caught a brief chat between new reformist MPs Marc Daou and Najat Aoun Saliba, and two new MPs from the Shia Amal Movement.

Downtown Beirut was the scene of repeated anti-government protests when thousands of activists would gather and attempt to storm the parliament building.

Parliament guards - known for their affiliation to Nabih Berri and his Amal Movement party - are accused of using violence against protesters, some of whom suffered serious injuries from rubber bullets and other types of weapons.

At least two men had to have eyes amputated after brutality by security forces.

New-comer independent MP Firas Hamdan has vowed to confront Berri and his guards over the issue. Hamdan was injured by shrapnel during a massive demonstration on 8 August 2020, four days after the massive Beirut Port explosion.

"Tell Nabih Berri’s thugs that the revolutionaries are now inside Nejmeh Square as lawmakers," was a phrase that went viral following the election.

Many believe that the walls will be re-erected as further protests and riots are inevitable, with the socio-economic situation no better and an energy crisis continuing to bite.