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Police deploy tear gas as Lebanon protesters try to break into parliament building following massive Beirut explosion

Huge crowds have gathered near Lebanon's parliament building, blaming the government for the massive ammonium nitrate explosion. Police responded with tear gas after demonstrators threw stones and tried to break the barriers.

Livestreaming video from the streets shows riot police armed with shields pushing forward to disperse crowds from outside the parliament building as tear gas fills the air. Protesters, mostly masked to protect themselves from Covid-19, are throwing rocks and projectiles directly at the security forces – with some of them hurling the projectiles directly back – and refusing to leave.

Thousands gathered on Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square, next to the parliament building on Saturday, angry at the government of President Michel Aoun and demanding justice for the victims of Tuesday’s blast that claimed over 150 lives, injured thousands, and left up to 300,000 homeless.

Cutouts of what appears to Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah, and other Lebanese politicians were placed in nooses set up by the demonstrators. 

Video shows that more demonstrators were marching toward the square from Mar Mikhael, one of the areas heavily impacted by the explosion. The protesters are calling for the government to be removed. The tragedy struck the country at a time when the citizens are already disgruntled over economic turmoil.

Saturday’s protest became tense with protesters trying to get close to Parliament and attempting to work their way past barricades protecting the building. 

Local media described the scene in central Beirut as a “battlefield,” as protesters run from security forces and throw tear gas back at them. Emergency vehicles can also be seen in the area.

Police confirmed to Reuters that bullets had been fired after shooting was heard at the scene of the demonstrations. TV coverage also showed several protesters badly injured from rubber bullets, the news agency said.

Protesters eventually stormed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters where they hung a banner calling for a demilitarized Beirut and smashed a framed picture of Michel Aoun, the president of Lebanon.

The ammonium nitrate that caused the massive explosion in Beirut on Tuesday is currently being investigated, but many already believe it to be the result of negligence, as the highly explosive chemical was stored at a port for six years with little to no oversight or security measures.

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