- Fighting broke out after the end of largely peaceful trade union march
- New right-wing government was elected in Belgium last month
- It wants to raise retirement age, cancel wage rises and cut welfare benefits
Violence broke out on the streets of Brussels today as more than 100,000 people marched against EU-enforced austerity.
Water cannons and tear gas were used in the centre of the Belgian capital as riot police tried to bring the situation under control.
Fighting broke out soon after the end of a largely peaceful march organised by trade unions and left wing politicians.
‘Metal barriers were thrown at the police, together with stones, and then the situation rapidly got worse,’ said demonstrator Gilles Broussard.
‘Hundreds of riot police were involved in trying to bring the situation under control – it all got very nasty.’
A new government was elected in Belgium last month and immediately pledged to raise the retirement age, cancel wage rises and cut social security benefits. This was all in line with strict guidelines from Europe, which views austerity as the key to the trading bloc’s future.
Belgium has a long postwar tradition of collective bargaining between employers and workers, and successive coalition governments representing a full scale of public opinion often have been able to contain social disagreements.
Slogans on banners included: ‘Eliminate the causes of the crisis, not the poor’, ‘Hands off the pension age’, and ‘human need not corporate greed’.
By late afternoon cars and other vehicles could be seen burning in the centre of Brussels. There were also reports of buildings being set on fire, and other property being damaged. ‘There are disturbances in the centre of the centre,’ said a Brussels police spokesman.
The unexpectedly massive march opens a month-long campaign by the trade unions against the business-friendly governing coalition and is to be capped with a nationwide general strike on December 15.
Full article: Brussels burns as more than 100,000 protesters clash with police during march against EU austerity measures (Daily Mail)