BEIRUT, Lebanon – Protesters in Lebanon on Saturday marked the first anniversary of months-long Oct. 17 anti-government demonstrations.

Lebanese held demonstrations in cities to commemorate protests that began against tax policies and continued for months with protesters demanding resignation of political parties that have shared power for years.

Hundreds gathered in Martyrs’ Square in Beirut at noon and marched with Lebanese flags to the Banks Association, before heading to the Central Bank.

The demonstrators, who also hold the Central Bank responsible for Lebanon’s economic crisis, stoned the building.

Leaving the site after security forces intervened, protesters concluded their march at the Port of Beirut.

Around 2,000 protesters chanted slogans against political parties and lit torches in memory of those killed in a massive blast at the port.

The Aug. 4 blast, which shook Lebanon and caused massive destruction in the capital, came at a time when the country was reeling under a crippling economic crisis amid the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The explosion killed at least 192 people and injured more than 6,000.

– Oct. 17 protests

The national unity government formed by the Muslim and Christian parties in parliament planned to impose a $6 month fee from users of the social media application WhatsApp as part of new taxes on communication.

The protest organized in front of the Government Palace during the meeting of the Council of Ministers on Oct. 17, 2019, on the tax-focused 2020 budget negotiations, turned into the largest mass demonstrations in the history of the country.

Activists, who flocked to squares and blocked main roads for about two weeks across the country, prevented public institutions, especially banks and schools, and the private sector, from providing services.

After Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri announced the resignation of government Oct. 29, demonstrators continued to protest, demanding the establishment of a government of independent technocrats, the elimination of sectarian-oriented parties that have been in the administration for years and insisting on early elections.

Although the protests have been suspended for several months because of the coronavirus outbreak, demonstrators continue to keep their anger alive on social media.

*Writing by Sena Guler

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