Tens of thousands of demonstrators flooded the streets of Lebanon as a series of anti-government protests entered its fourth day on Sunday.
The unified crowd consisted of people of all ages, with some chanting "the people want to bring down the regime," in protest of the current economic state of the country. Lebanon has one of the largest national debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratios in the world.
The protests have caught the attention of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who is facing mounting pressure to deliver a series of economic reforms as the nation's economy is crumbling, according to Reuters.
The anti-government protests began late on Thursday following a proposed fee on WhatsApp calls, which was seen by many as another way to hurt the lower class, which had already been struggling.
The government quickly scrapped the proposed tax, although that hasn't stopped the protests from growing in size every day since they started, according to Reuters.
On Sunday, the outlet reported protesters united together across crowded city streets, as loudspeakers were heard blasting nationalistic music that energized the unified crowd.
“I didn’t expect people from the country’s north, south and Beirut to join hands and like each other. The protests have brought together everyone and this has never happened before,” Sahar Younis, a 32-year-old worker with a non-governmental organization, told Reuters.
Many are calling for Hariri to resign, while the outlet says he's reportedly waiting for his coalition to get on board with his economic proposals, which include taxing banks and overhauling the country’s costly state electricity utility.
Even so, it appears the economic issues are eroding the government from within.
Four government members from the Lebanese Forces Party resigned on Saturday, with Labour Minister Camille Abousleiman telling Al Jazeera she had "lost faith in the government’s ability to effect change and address the problem."
The protests are building on long-simmering anger at a ruling class that has divvied up power among themselves and amassed wealth for decades, but has done little to fix a crumbling economy and dilapidated infrastructure.
The unrest erupted after the government proposed new taxes, part of stringent austerity measures amid a growing economic crisis. The protests have brought people from across the sectarian and religious lines that define the country.
"People cannot take it anymore," said Nader Fares, a protester in central Beirut who said he's unemployed. "There are no good schools, no electricity and no water."
Politicians are now racing against time to put forward an economic rescue plan that they hope will help calm the public.
Samir Geagea, who heads the right-wing Lebanese Forces Party, said he no longer believes the current national unity government headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri can steer the country out of the deepening economic crisis.
In a speech Friday night, Hariri had given his partners in the government a 72-hour ultimatum to come up with convincing solutions to the economic crisis. A day later, Hariri said he was meeting cabinet ministers to "reach what serves the Lebanese."
On Sunday, Hariri continued his meetings to finish suggestions to revive the country's crumbling economy, which has been suffering from high unemployment, little growth and one of the highest debt ratios in the world standing at 150 percent of the gross domestic products.
Many of the protesters have already said they don't trust the current government's reforms, and are calling on the 30-member cabinet to resign and be replaced by a smaller one made up of technocrats instead of members of political groups.
"I hope the government will resign and I think we are ready and the whole country is ready for something else at last," said real estate agent Fabian Ziayde.
Since Saturday, the protests have been mostly peaceful with many protesters bringing their children with them to the gatherings.
But some demonstrators went on a rampage Friday night, smashing shop windows and bank exteriors in Beirut's glitzy downtown. Security forces eventually responded by firing tear gas and water cannons. Dozens were arrested.
The Associated Press contributed to the report