BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army Sunday night denied having prevented protesters from traveling to Beirut.
Protesters traveling from Tripoli to Beirut on board of buses were stopped at the Madfoun checkpoint in north Lebanon Sunday afternoon.
The demonstrators were on their way to join the crowds gathering at Martyrs' Square in the capital's Downtown area, following parliamentary consultations held Saturday.
Some reports said that the Army prevented the buses from passing through, while some protesters criticized the the Army, saying that they were being targeted.
The incident brought traffic on the highway from Tripoli to Beirut to a standstill for close to an hour.
“Contrary to what has been circulated by some media outlets and on social media platforms, the Army clarifies that what happened at the checkpoint today falls within the framework of preserving security and was just a tight inspection process,” a statement released by the Army said. The statement also denied reports that the Army prevented buses from crossing the checkpoint.
“A number of people objected to the inspection process, refusing to follow instructions and orders of Army members at the checkpoint, and were therefore detained for a short period of time before being released,” the statement said. Sources told The Daily Star that 59 people were held. The statement added that wooden batons and gas masks were found on buses.
In Beddawi, protesters reacted to news of the events in Madfoun by blocking roads.
"You don't represent the Sunni sect in Lebanon," a protester at a roadblock in Beddawi said, referring to Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab.
Demonstrators across the country have been outraged by what they believe is the government's refusal to listen to their demands. Earlier this weekend, Diab vowed to form a government of experts within six weeks to tackle Lebanon's dire economic situation. However, many have questioned his commitment as well as suitability for the role, saying that he is part of the same political elite that the uprising has sought to overthrow.
"All of them means all of them," a demonstrator in Beirut told broadcaster MTV.
Internal Security Forces and the Army have been heavily deployed in Beirut since last weekend, when tear gas and rubber bullets were fired at demonstrators.
“This is not the first time our compatriots in Tripoli have come out to support us," another protester in Martyrs Square told MTV.