Tens of thousands protest Belgium’s stricter coronavirus rules

Tens of thousands protest Belgium’s stricter coronavirus rules

Brussels – Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in central Brussels on Sunday to protest the strengthened COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the Belgian government to counter the recent surge in coronavirus cases.

Several policemen estimate that 35,000 people who took part in the rally had already left for their homes when the demonstration turned violent, with several hundred hurling police, smashing cars and setting garbage bins on fire. Police responded with tear gas and water cannons and sought to restore order as dusk fell in the Belgian capital.

Three police officers and one protester were injured in the clashes. In addition, 42 protesters were arrested and two arrested and charged in the wave of violence that followed the rally, according to police spokeswoman Ilse Vande Keri.

Demonstrators came to protest against the government’s strong advice on vaccination and any potential moves to enforce mandatory shots.

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Chanting “Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!” Singing the anti-fascist song “Bella Qiao,” protesters lined up behind a huge banner reading “Together for Freedom” and marched to the European Union headquarters. Amid the crowd, banners ranged from the far-right badge to the rainbow flags of the LGBT community.

The World Health Organization said last week that Europe was the hotspot for the pandemic at the moment, and is the only region where COVID-19 deaths are rising. Fall numbers of infections surged dramatically on hospitals in many Central and Eastern European countries, including Ukraine, Russia, Romania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

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Over the past several days, there have been many anti-vaccination rallies in European countries as government after government tightened measures. Dutch police arrested more than 30 people during unrest in The Hague and other towns in the Netherlands on Saturday, following much worse violence the night before.

Austria will go into a 10-day national lockdown on Monday for everyone after the first lockdown was imposed on the unvaccinated. Vienna’s Christmas markets were packed on Sunday with locals and tourists enjoying the holiday scenes before shops and food stalls were forced to close.

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