Protesters against vaccine mandate in Belgium clash with police
Belgian police fired water cannon on Sunday to disperse protesters opposed to compulsory health measures against the coronavirus pandemic.
Some 8,000 people marched through Brussels towards the headquarters of the European Union, chanting “Freedom!” and letting off fireworks.
The crowd was smaller than the 35,000 vaccine and lockdown sceptics who marched last month.
Protesters were blocked from reaching the roundabout outside the EU headquarters by a barbed-wire barricade and a line of riot officers.
As two drones and a helicopter circled overhead, they threw fireworks and beer cans. Police responded with water cannon and tear gas.
As the crowd dispersed into smaller groups around the European quarter, there were more clashes and some set fire to barricades of rubbish.
Demonstrations in European cities
Several European countries have seen demonstrations in recent weeks as governments respond to a surge in COVID cases with tighter restrictions.
The organisers of Sunday’s protests hoped to match the November 21 demonstration, during which police seemed caught off guard as the rally turned violent.
The demonstrators opposed compulsory health measures, such as masks, lockdowns and vaccine passes, and some share conspiracy theories.
Banners on Sunday compared the stigmatisation of the non-vaccinated to the treatment of Jews forced to wear yellow stars in Nazi Germany.
“Covid = Organised Genocide,” said one sign. “The QR code is a Swastika,” declared another, referring to the EU COVID safe digital certificate.
“I can’t bear discrimination in any form, and now there’s the vaccine pass which is discriminatory, sanctions for [unvaccinated] carers which are discriminatory too, there’s mandatory vaccination which is heading our way,” one protester, martial arts teacher Alain Sienaort, was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency.
“That’s all discrimination, so we have to fight it. We don’t want a dictatorship.”