Lebanon News

Joumblatt calls supporters off streets after scuffles

BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Joumblatt called his supporters off the streets of Beirut's Hamra district Thursday evening following scuffles involving the PSP, the Free Patriotic Movement and security forces.

The Lebanese Army and riot police deployed in Hamra to separate the two parties after PSP supporters attempted to prevent FPM protesters from reaching a demonstration outside the Central Bank.

At least two people were injured as rocks were thrown and a group of unidentified men attacked the reporter and cameraman of local TV channel Al Jadeed.

An FPM source told MTV that some of their supporters were stabbed by those of the PSP and taken to hospital. The party later issued a statement condemning the alleged actions of the PSP, saying "blocking the roads in front of buses and people and attacking with rocks and knives are known militia tactics."

After around an hour and a half, PSP MPs arrived on the scene to tell their supporters that Joumblatt was asking them to leave the streets and head to his home in nearby Clemenceau.

Speaking to reporters from his residence, he said, "I am here to protect the Army and security forces, we don't want unnecessary excitement."

"Let them organize the demonstration they want, as they are destroying while we are building," Joumblatt added, in comments directed at the FPM.

Supporters of the FPM gathered outside the Central Bank headquarters in Hamra to demand information on funds “smuggled abroad.”

The FPM invited its supporters to meet at the party’s headquarters in Sin al-Fil before heading to the Central Bank to demand the return of funds transferred abroad.

The Lebanese judiciary has opened investigations into the reported transfer of billions of dollars out of Lebanon between October and December which took place despite banks blocking such transfers amid a currency crisis.

The FPM asked its supporters to join the demonstrations “carrying the Lebanese flag exclusively.”

Nevertheless, some of the protesters carried photographs of President Michel Aoun, who founded the FPM, and made the party’s checkmark symbol with their fingers.

The FPM protest has been criticized by participants of the “thawra,” or revolution, that began on Oct. 17 and has been distinct in its nonpartisan, nonsectarian nature.

The Central Bank has been the site of dozens of demonstrations over the last four months, as banks increase informal capital controls on their customers and Lebanon descends into economic crisis. The wall opposite the bank is now covered in graffiti criticizing the country’s economic policy and Central Bank Gov. Riad Salameh.

Ahead of Thursday’s protest, posters appeared on the wall in the FPM’s signature orange color, mocking the party and attempting to demonstrate that it is also complicit in corruption.

“Loyalty or opposition ... #LebanonRevolts,” read one.

One of the main slogans of the 127-day-old uprising is “all of them means all of them,” indicating that no political official can be absolved of involvement in corruption and mismanagement of state funds.

However, multiple FPM protesters told local TV channel Al Jadeed that the mainstream protests had exclusively targeted Aoun and FPM head Gebran Bassil.

While Bassil was undoubtedly one of the most commonly targeted politicians, with protesters inventing a particularly vulgar song about his mother, they attacked the leaders of all of Lebanon’s parties.

 

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