1.Why did the army shoot at the protesters? This question I was actually able to get an answer for.
There is a military base in Downtown Beirut. You don’t see it easily; it’s well hidden on a little alley between Virgin Megastore and Hotel Le Grey.
The southwestern entrances to the star-shaped Nejmeh Square where the parliament is located are the responsibility of the Parliament Police (yes, the Parliament has its own police force). The checkpoints in the northeastern corner, right across the street from Annahar and Samir Kassir Square, are guarded by the Lebanese Armed forces.
Most protesters in Downtown did not know on Saturday that the military base was there on that alley between Virgin Megastore and the hotel. Pushed by the riot police cold showers and tear gas from Riadh el-Solh, the protesters tried to go into the Nejmeh Square through the back door: the alley between Virgin Megastore and Hotel Le Grey. Only it was not a door, but a dead end.
The troops guarding the entrance to the base reacted violently. The Lebanese soldiers do not have any anti-riot gear. They don’t even have a megaphone to warn people off. They only have their pistols and their M16 rifles and they are ordered to shoot when they feel they’re under attack. Their orders were to keep civilians away from their base. They could only do so with the equipment they had: their guns.
However, in one of the videos I’ve seen around, at around 0:40, there is a man dressed in a lilac shirt that actually talks to a soldier and then tries to warn the protesters to back off. But nobody knew what was going on and most people thought the soldiers were there to repel them. Also there was a lot of anxiety. So nobody listened to him. And nobody could at that point. Protesters thought the soldiers were there specifically to shoot at them, just like the riot police.
So this leads to question number 2.
2. Why were these soldiers only equipped with their guns? Why didn’t they have any warning gear? And if they are not supposed to have them, why are they there? Martyrs Square is, after all, the place where all protests and demonstrations have been taking place ever since 2005. There is always a chance a manifestation could go crazy.
3. Why is the police force guarding the Nejmeh Square subordinated to the Parliament and not to the Ministry of Interior? It doesn’t make any sense. Why does the Parliament need its own security force? The ISF has a squad that is responsible with guarding embassies and public institutions. Why is the Parliament special?
4. Who decided to call the Fouhoud [the riot police] and who asked them to use all this anti-riot gear against the protesters on Saturday afternoon? Sure there were some protesters trying to remove the barbed wire. But wasn’t this too much force?
5. Why hasn’t any ISF official made any statement about what happened? We’ve only seen the captain of the squad detached to Riadh el Solh. No other high-ranking official. Why?
6. Why did the riot police decide that in addition to the water cannons and some tear gas grenades, rubber bullets were to be used? Why?
7. How come the Minister of Interior was not informed about all this until 10.15 on Saturday? As far as I know, nobody moves a finger in the ministry without him signing a paper. I can’t get statistics from the press office without his approval. But a big demonstration can be drowned in tear gas and rubber bullets without his knowledge?
8. Why was all this force used on Saturday, but not that much on Sunday? Most of the public property was damaged on Sunday.
9. Who are these people? They don’t look like a spontaneous crowd. They look like an organized mob. Fine, this is a rhetoric question. We know who they are and what they were chanting. The question is why did they do this?
10. Really, how can you believe that the people are that stupid to fall for the same tricks all the time?