Lebanese Army troops were deployed near the home of parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri on Saturday as protesters targeted people they believe are a “privileged elite.”
Groups of demonstrators have followed political and economic leaders into restaurants and cafes to protest and accuse them of theft. They include former minister Adnan Kassar, the wife of the governor of the Banque du Liban, Nada Riad Salameh, and the secretary-general of the Future Movement, Ahmad Hariri.
There was further anger on Saturday when video footage emerged of bodyguards for Hariri, cousin of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, apparently attacking protesters inside an upmarket Italian restaurant in Beirut.
Twitter user Usamaibn Munqid said: “The whole Lebanese political elite needs to be jailed whether it is Hariri, Aoun, Berri and many more.”
Street protests erupted in Lebanon in October 2019 over economic hardship and institutional corruption. They grew after the Aug. 4 explosions in Beirut Port, which killed more than 200 people and which most Lebanese blame on the failings of the political elite. Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab and three former ministers have been charged with negligence.
Lebanon has been in the grip of a currency crisis since the pound, previously pegged at 1,500 to the dollar, began to devalue rapidly as a consequence of political and economic mismanagement, also blamed by many on the country’s elite.
Trade unions affiliated with the General Labor Union are set to go on strike next Wednesday in rejection of any move to cut subsidies.
Meanwhile student groups have emerged as a new focus for protests demanding political and economic reform. Student elections this year to representative councils resulted in unprecedented victories for secular independents after decades of domination by the ruling parties.
Qamar Suleiman, a medical student at the University of Balamand, said: “Political awareness in universities is one of the means for change. Politics controls the corners of our lives, and engaging in student elections is a step toward creating independent secular groups that believe in social justice.”