Protesters clash with police in Brussels as 35,000 march against Covid restrictions

Fireworks and smoke bombs hurled at officers in Belgian capital as rioters chant ‘freedom’

Peter Stubley
Sunday 21 November 2021 23:41 GMT
Video: Brussels protest over tougher Covid measures

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Police used tear gas and water cannons after violence broke out at the end of a mass demonstration in Brussels over tougher Covid restrictions.

Several hundred people were seen confronting officers by throwing smoke bombs, fireworks and rocks as others were pictured smashing cars and setting rubbish bins on fire in the Belgian capital on Sunday.

Some protesters held hands and chanted “freedom” as they faced up to riot police outside the European Union headquarters. One carried a placard reading “when tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty”.

Earlier an estimated 35,000 people had taken to the streets to protest against tougher Covid restrictions imposed by the government because of surging numbers of cases.

The measures include enforced working from home and a wider use of masks on top of the existing requirements for Covid passes, which prevent the unvaccinated from entering nightclubs, bars and restaurants.

One group of protesters sang the anti-fascist song “Bella Ciao” and shouted “Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!” as they marched to the European Union headquarters.

Police said incidents of disorder broke out after the main protest finished but the situation was “normalised” and the area was reopened to traffic by around 5pm, police said. “We have injuries but we cannot yet say how many,” added police spokesperson Ilse Vande Keere.

It follows rioting in the Dutch city of Rotterdam during similar protests against Covid restrictions on Friday night.

Seven people were injured after police fired warning shots in response to what they claimed was a “life-threatening” situation.

A further 30 arrests were made during smaller demonstrations in The Hague and other towns in the Netherlands on Saturday.

In Austria, tens of thousands of people protested after the government announced a new lockdown would begin on Monday.

The demonstration was organised by the far-right Freedom Party, whose leader claimed that the measures had turned the country into a "dictatorship".

An estimated 35,000 people took part in the protest in Brussels on Sunday
An estimated 35,000 people took part in the protest in Brussels on Sunday (EPA)

Protests also took place in Switzerland, Croatia, Italy and Northern Ireland as coronavirus restrictions were tightened across Europe.

Hundreds of people gathered in Belfast city centre on Saturday to oppose a proposal for a Covid certification scheme that would restrict entry to nightclubs, bars and restaurants from 13 December.

Additional reporting by agencies

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