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Clashes in Brussels between the police and demonstrators opposed to health restrictions


Clashes opposed the police and opponents of restrictions linked to the Covid-19 pandemic in Brussels on Sunday, during a demonstration which brought together tens of thousands of people.

Clashes opposed the police and opponents of restrictions linked to the Covid-19 pandemic in Brussels on Sunday, during a demonstration which brought together tens of thousands of people. According to the authorities, around 50,000 people marched in the Belgian capital, some from other European countries. This is the biggest in a series of protests in the city in recent months. Clashes erupted near European Union headquarters as police used water cannons and tear gas to push back protesters who were throwing cobblestones and firecrackers.

According to RTL radio, masked protesters smashed a window at the entrance to the EU Foreign Affairs headquarters. The participants in this parade carried placards criticizing Prime Minister Alexander De Croo as well as the health pass, which is compulsory to access many places. Demonstrations against the health certificate – required to access restaurants and cultural events in particular – have been taking place regularly for several weeks in the Belgian capital. Some of the previous rallies had already been marked by clashes with the police. Organizers, including the World Wide Demonstration for Freedom and Europeans United for Freedom movements, had invited protesters from other European countries to participate on Sunday. Dutch, Polish, French and Romanian flags were visible in the procession.

“A health dictatorship”

“What has happened since 2020 has made people wake up,” said Francesca Fanara, from Lille, in northern France. Criticizing “a health dictatorship”, Adolfo Barbosa, who arrived from Portugal, said that “it warms the heart to see these people here”. This demonstration comes as some governments are moving towards a reduction in health restrictions, despite the persistence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 which is causing a record number of contaminations. Omicron is now dominant in the European Union and the European Economic Area, the European health agency announced on Friday.

Last week, more than 60,000 people were infected every day in Belgium, a wave that the authorities described as a “tsunami”. But the less deleterious effects of the Omicron variant and a high rate of vaccination have allowed the health system to be less under pressure than during previous waves. In this context, the Prime Minister announced on Friday that restaurants and bars could extend their opening hours – nightclubs will remain closed. In neighboring France, the government announced Thursday evening the lifting, in February, of most of the restrictions taken to curb the epidemic: end of wearing a mask outdoors and compulsory teleworking, reopening of nightclubs and return of standing concerts.

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