BAGHDAD, April 30 (UPI) -- A state of emergency was declared in Baghdad on Saturday after scores of protesters burst through the capital city's fortified Green Zone and overtook the Parliament building in a dramatic escalation of the country's political crisis.
Protesters who have been demanding changes to the government structure after allegations of corruption waved Iraq's flag after a call for "peaceful" demonstrations" by Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, Al Arabiya reported. The Green Zone, a common name for the International Zone of Baghdad, is a 4-square-mile area where government and embassy buildings, including the U.S. Embassy, are located.
Protestors, who were not searched upon entering, reportedly brought down concrete blast walls surrounding the zone using cables, Al Jazeera reported.
Roads leading into the city were closed, but people were being allowed to leave. Protesters also have reportedly managed to break glass and furniture in the Parliament building, set a vehicle on fire and use barbed wire to keep fleeing lawmakers from leaving the area.
Western diplomats and a spokesman for the United Nations are reportedly in lockdown and have not been evacuated.
"Under the Vienna Convention, all diplomatic missions are protected by the host country's security forces," U.S. Embassy officials in Iraq said. "We have full confidence that the Iraqi Security Forces will meet its obligations."
Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has reportedly been promising to replace the Cabinet members for some time.
Earlier this week, Parliament approved Abadi's proposal to reshuffle the Cabinet after hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in the Iraqi capital under Sadr's orders.
Saturday's protest reportedly comes after a session to meet public demands to reshuffle the government was postponed, according to Rudaw.
Vice President Joe Biden visited Iraq's capital in an effort to resolve the political crisis this week. During the unannounced visit, he met with government leaders, including Abadi.
If there is no reform, Sadr warned he and his followers will "destroy" the current government.
"All the ministers should be changed, I am waiting for the nation to announce a revolution against corruption," he reportedly said.