Riot police blast Covid protesters with water cannon and tear gas in Brussels

Riot police blast Covid protesters with water cannon and tear gas in Brussels

Coronavirus, Josep Borrell

1/24/2022 11:20:00 AM

Riot police blast Covid protesters with water cannon and tear gas in Brussels

Tens of thousands of people protesting tough Covid measures in Brussels were blasted with water cannon and tear gas as an Omicron 'tsunami' hits the country

Today's demonstration against restrictions began peacefully with crowds chanting and and waving placards and balloons.Black-clad demonstrators hurled objects at a building housing the European diplomatic service and a sandwich shop was broken into.

The main source of the anger was the requirement for citizens to have a vaccine pass to access most public venues.Flags from Romania and Poland could be seen as crowds marched through the streets.On Friday, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced bars and pubs can stay open later, while capacity at indoor venues has been upped to 200 and outdoor events can go ahead.

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Thousands march through Brussels demanding end to tough Covid rulesThe sprawling crowd paraded through Brussels today. Protesters clutched signs slamming the Prime Minister. Police confronted today's crowds (pictured) as scuffles and violence broke out at the protest.

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Riot police blasted protesters with water cannon and tear gas as trouble flared in Brussels this weekend. Around 50,000 people took to the streets of Belgium - a country currently experiencing a fifth wave of Covid infections, with Omicron fuelling 60,000 infections a day. Some protesters had travelled from France, Germany and other European countries. Today's demonstration against restrictions began peacefully with crowds chanting and and waving placards and balloons. Slogans like: "We want to be free again", "I'm not an anti-vaxxer, I'm anti-dictator" and "No Covid slave ticket", a reference to vaccine passes required for certain activities, could be seen. But the demonstration later boiled over into violent confrontations near the European Commission's headquarters. Black-clad demonstrators hurled objects at a building housing the European diplomatic service and a sandwich shop was broken into. Fireworks were let off as fully armoured officers advanced on a park followed by a water cannon. More than 60 people were arrested, while 12 demonstrators and three officers were taken to hospital. The main source of the anger was the requirement for citizens to have a vaccine pass to access most public venues. And from March 1 a booster jab will be needed for the pass to remain valid. Today's protest was organised by the World Wide Demonstration for Freedom and Europeans United for Freedom, which called for people to travel to the city from across Europe. Flags from Romania and Poland could be seen as crowds marched through the streets. Francesca Fanara, from Lille in France, told AFP: "What has been happening since 2020 has allowed people to wake up to corruption." The protests came despite the Belgium announcing a slight easing of coronavirus restrictions on Friday. On Friday, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced bars and pubs can stay open later, while capacity at indoor venues has been upped to 200 and outdoor events can go ahead. But nightclubs will remain closed and there are fears Belgium will follow Austria in implementing a vaccine mandate for all citizens not medically exempt. The country is experiencing record case numbers but, while restrictions were eased, officials said people must have booster shots after five months to keep passes for bars, cinemas and many other public spaces. Vaccinated protester Caroline van Landuyt said: "I'm angry about the blackmail that the government is doing." Her children did not want to be inoculated but had to so to travel and play sport, she said. In November around 35,000 protesters took to Brussels' streets for demonstrations which were also occasionally violent. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell thanked police and condemned "the senseless destruction and violence" in a tweet that showed him standing in front of a broken pane of glass. The peak of Belgium's latest wave is not expected for at least a couple of weeks. At a press conference on Friday Prime Minister De Croo said described the latest wave as a "tsunami" but said it as making people "less sick" More than 28,700 Belgians have died from Covid-19, according to figures from John Hopkins University. Around 89% of adults in the country are fully vaccinated and 67% have now also received a booster shot. There have been 2,467 Covid deaths per one million people in Belgium, placing it 24th in the world. The UK is 30th with 2,248. The UK yesterday recorded 74,799 new cases, down week-on-week and significantly lower than the record 218,724 recorded on January 4. Omicron is now the dominant variant across Europe. In neighbouring France restrictions will be eased from February 2 as Omicron cases fell. Read More Read More