The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) is a local non-profit, non-partisan Lebanese human rights organization in Beirut that was established by the Franco-Lebanese Movement SOLIDA (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily) in 2006. SOLIDA has been active since 1996 in the struggle against arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and the impunity of those perpetrating gross human violations.

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September 20, 2015

Naharnet - Protesters March from Bourj Hammoud to Nejmeh Square amid Attack by 'Berri Supporters', September 20, 2015

Civil society protesters marched Sunday from Bourj Hammoud to central Beirut's Nejmeh Square, passing by the Sukleen waste management firm and Electricité du Liban's headquarters, in a mass demo that was marred by an assault by young men claiming to be supporters of Speaker Nabih Berri.

Demonstrators started gathering in Bourj Hammoud around 4:00 pm, carrying banners condemning the ruling political class and chanting slogans against the government.

The banners also reflected the protest movement's demands regarding the crises of waste management, electricity, salaries and other social issues.

Riot police later imposed a security cordon around al-Nejmeh Square. Protesters had announced that they intend to enter into the square to rally outside the parliament building.

By nightfall, hundreds of protesters were being held back by riot police near the square. After around two hours, they managed to break police lines near An Nahar newspaper's building and enter a street adjacent to Nejmeh Square.

"Peaceful, peaceful," shouted the protesters as they held their hands in the air and moved further into the street without any clashes with security forces, which brought in more reinforcements to the area.

"The people are the source of authority," protest organizer Ajwad Ayyash told the crowd, which was thinning by evening. "This is the square of the people. And we insist we must enter it so that we can have elections."

Lebanon's parliament has extended its term twice in a controversial move amid disputes over a new election law. The last elections were held in 2009.

“No one has apologized, no one has resigned … And they devised a new plan that is an extension of the past, promising us rosy dreams within 18 months,” Ayyash added in the name of the protest movement, referring to the country's garbage crisis.

“The will of the Naameh residents will not be broken,” he said, in reference to the controversial Naameh landfill, after the government urged residents to accept a 7-day reopening of the facility to dump garbage that has been accumulating in random sites since the July 17 closure of the facility.

The protest movement also slammed the current parliament as “illegitimate” and “non-existent.”

Protesters later started leaving the street that is adjacent to al-Nejmeh Square after staying there for around two hours.

Earlier in the day, young men claiming to be supporters of Berri – some carrying knives – assaulted some protesters near al-Nejmeh Square prior to the arrival of the main demonstration.

The violence first erupted with an altercation outside An Nahar newspaper's building over a protest banner containing the pictures of Berri, Progressive Socialist Party chief Walid Jumblat and former premier Saad Hariri.

TV footage later showed groups of young men arriving in the area and beating up protesters indiscriminately.

At least one attacker was arrested as riot police intervened to contain the situation. Some protesters lamented the security forces' response as “slow.”

“We are exerting strenuous efforts to contain the clashes but chaos is making our mission difficult,” the Internal Security Forces meanwhile said in a statement.

On Thursday, the so-called follow-up committee of the popular protest movement called for the resignation of the interior and environment ministers over perceived violations.

It also urged the release of all detainees held in connection with the August 22, 23 and 29 demos and an end to “arbitrary arrests.”

The activists reiterated their call for the resignation of Environment Minister Mohammed al-Mashnouq over “his negligence in shouldering his responsibilities regarding the garbage disaster as well as his covering up for corruption that spanned 20 years.”

Accordingly, the committee called for devising “an immediate emergency plan to tackle the environmental disaster that would involve declaring a state of alert in line with the Civil Defense Law.”

Protesters also demanded “early parliamentary polls that would secure the representation of all social categories without discrimination and away from sectarian polarization.”

The trash crisis has ignited the largest Lebanese protests in years and has emerged as a festering symbol of the government's paralysis and failure to provide basic services. It was sparked by popular anger over the heaps of trash accumulating in the streets of Beirut and Mount Lebanon after authorities closed Lebanon's largest landfill in Naameh on July 17 and failed to provide an alternative.

Campaigns like "You Stink" have managed to bring tens of thousands of people into the streets in unprecedented non-partisan and non-sectarian demonstrations against the ruling political class.

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