THERE have been mass protests in Lebanon. Brighton resident and Argus reporter LAURIE CHURCHMAN was caught up in the trouble while on holiday with a friend in the northern city of Tripoli, describing the moment the demonstrations became violent on Friday.

Things have changed now demonstrators have been shot.

For the last 24 hours the streets have been black with smoke from burning tyres.

Young men on mopeds have been driving through the flames and throwing on more rubber.

We joined them on the kerb last night.

“Welcome to Lebanon”, they laughed.

The Argus:

Across the country, thousands of demonstrators have been blocking roads, scaling statues, and lighting fires in some of the largest anti-government protests in Lebanon’s recent history.

They are enraged by Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s handling of the country’s financial crisis.

Yesterday the government attempted to impose a £0.16 tax on WhatsApp calls, but was forced to climb down after an intense backlash.

The Argus:

At first activists set up a handful of road blockades. A few hours later the squares of Tripoli were teeming with protestors and tyre fires were burning all over the city.

The demonstrators were serious, but also excited. Between the flames there were coffee stalls, fast-food vendors and stereos. People stood on top of cars to dance as well as shout through megaphones.

In the crowd, one young boy said: “I know there will be a change of government soon.”

The Argus:

The mood is very different now.

Moments ago, someone opened fire on the crowd.

Unconfirmed reports say at least one demonstrator was shot dead.

Several have been injured.

We can hear the gunfire. In the street people are chanting “thawra”, ‘revolution’, and “down with the government”, a refrain from the Arab Spring.

Everyone not out protesting is glued to their TVs. It’s been the same all day: in shisha cafes and huddled round doorways, everyone is waiting to see what happens.

Most broadcasters have split screens to show the demonstrations in different cities.

The Argus:

In Beirut, the police used tear gas to scatter the crowds.

We just heard they have started arresting demonstrators.

Local media reported that yesterday, two men in the capital died from smoke inhalation.

Here in Tripoli, we have had to move inside. Almost all the shops have closed their shutters and we are watching the news in our guesthouse with an Arabic translator.

The Argus:

At 7pm, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri addressed the media from a podium in the capital.

He refused to resign and has given himself 72 hours to find a solution to the country’s troubles.

On the TV, we can see protesters round the corner in Tripoli have set fire to a car.

The presenter says it was owned by former MP Misbah al-Ahdab.

Our translator was there when the bullets were fired. She broke into tears when she saw images suggesting a protestor had died from his wounds.

She said: “There were women with kids, old and young people nearby. We were around them. Many had masks to stop the smoke.”

She said the Lebanese army has not been responsible for any deaths.

When we have seen soldiers in tanks, jeeps, and carrying machine guns through the crowds, they have been peaceful.

The Argus:

She said: “So far the military are not interfering: just watching and trying to open the roads. It’s getting worse and worse.

“Already we have many problems here: there are power cuts, the water is not drinkable, food is expensive and the Government is not looking after the economy. People do not want any more taxes.”

The Argus:

Protests over corruption and mismanagement of the economy have flared up several times in recent weeks.

We saw over 100 soldiers being drafted in to quell a demonstration in Beirut on Monday.

Soldiers with batons and riot shields looked on as protestors blocked roads and scaled a statue in the central Martyrs’ Square.

At the time, one demonstrator said: “This is a peaceful protest. But people are angry about corruption in the Government. There’s no food and no jobs. We’re tired of it.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is advising against all but essential travel to many parts of Lebanon.