BEIRUT: Protesters targeted Lebanon's major banking institutions Wednesday on the 42nd consecutive day of major protests.
Dozens gathered outside the Central Bank headquarters in Beirut's Hamra district and in front of the Association of Banks in Lebanon in Gemmayzeh to protest policies that have led to the country's severe economic and financial decline.
The unofficial exchange rate reached more than LL2,150 to the U.S. dollar Wednesday, well above the official LL1,507.5 peg.
At the Central Bank, protesters wore masks bearing the face of Gov. Riad Salameh, chanting, "Thief, thief, Riad Salameh is a thief," during a demonstration that came almost at the end of a 24-hour sit in.
A hairdresser gave out free haircuts to protesters beneath a banner that read "We won't pay the price." Some economists and protesters have called for a "haircut" on the accounts of the largest depositors to relieve pressure on banks suffering from a severe liquidity crisis.
In Tripoli and Beirut's Ain al-Rummaneh, women lead "peaceful" marches to condemn sectarian rhetoric and violence that occured in multiple areas of Lebanon Tuesday night.
A scuffle that erupted in Tripoli late Tuesday night left over 130 people injured. The Red Cross said it treated 17 cases on site and transferred seven to local hospitals. The Emergency and Relief Corps said it treated 110 cases after scuffles between the Lebanese Army and protesters. Security forces eventually fired tear gas to disperse the protesters.
A video circulating online also appeared to show a soldier firing directly at civilians – although it was unclear whether it was live ammunition or rubber bullets.
Local media reported the scuffle started as a group of protesters wanted to remove a Free Patriotic Movement flag outside the party’s reportedly abandoned office in the area.
When the group approached the office, the Lebanese Army shot in the air to disperse the protesters, the state-run National News Agency reported.
A person threw a hand grenade at the Army, but it did not explode, the Army said in a statement. In total, 33 soldiers were hurt and a number of motorcycles were confiscated, the Army said in a second statement released Wednesday.
Later Tuesday night, an ATM belonging to Fransabank was set on fire and the glass exterior of BankMed was destroyed, according to the NNA. A BankMed ATM was also set alight.
Calm returned to the city Wednesday morning, with schools and shops reopening and traffic returning to normal across the city. No roadblocks in the country were reported.
The head of the Higher Relief Committee, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Kheir, toured the city Wendesday afternoon to inspect the damage.
In the Beirut suburb of Ain al-Rummaneh, the Army ended a scuffle between Amal Movement supporters and local residents. Ten soldiers were hit by rocks, the Army said.
The Army also intervened late Tuesday to push back local residents as a convoy of Free Patriotic Movement supporters attempted to drive through Metn’s Bikfaya and criticize local politicians.
The FPM supporters organized a convoy of cars toward Bikfaya, near the residence of former President Amine Gemayel, former leader of the Kataeb Party.
The Red Cross said five people were taken to hospitals and five others were treated on site during the Bikfaya scuffles. The Army said eight soldiers were hurt.
Sixteen people who were involved in scuffles across Lebanon were arrested by the Army, according to the statement released Wednesday. The Army said peace was restored across all areas and investigations were ongoing into those detained.
Earlier Tuesday, a group of protesters, led by the Sabaa Party, clashed with supporters of the FPM near Baabda Palace. The Internal Security Forces moved in to separate the two groups and were later backed up by the Army, who created a dividing line.
In the city of Baalbeck, supporters of Hezbollah and Amal briefly clashed with protesters and surrounded the entrance to a building where a number of protesters were gathered.
Oct 17. marked the first day of the nationwide uprising against the ruling class, deemed responsible for Lebanon’s worst economic situation since the 1975-90 Civil War.