"War scenes" in Wallonia

France's Hi-Viz protests against fuel prices have spilled into Belgium.  The big Total petrochemicals plant at Feluy (Hainaut) in Wallonia is the target of the protests.  Hi-Viz demonstrators blockaded the plant again last night leading to a stand-off.

A number of masked individuals mingled with the protesters and targeted police officers and members of the media.  In all some forty people were arrested. Several vehicles have been seized.  The protest stopped traffic on the E19 motorway.  Protesters left early this morning, but there is speculation that the motorway has been damaged requiring repairs to be made first.

The local governor triggered the special crisis procedure, while police deployed water cannon.  Governor Tommy Leclercq denies that the violence has anything to do with the Hi-Viz protests, but accuses troublemakers of infiltrating the protest and causing the problems: "Yesterday there was hardly anybody with a Hi-Viz jacket.  Around 400 people dressed in black and wearing masks appeared."

Mr Leclercq notes the troublemakers are well organised on social media.  They are publishing videos on Facebook and reaching 300,000 followers.

People on the ground say that the atmosphere turned nasty during the night as events mirrored those on Tuesday night.  The Francophone broadcaster RTBF says one of their cameramen was attacked and a radio van was stoned.  In the confusion the cameraman was also bitten by a police dog.

RTBF's reporter speaks of "war scenes" on Belgian soil.  Similar blockades were staged elsewhere in Wallonia last night.  Near Bois-Bourdon on the French border 150 lorries were prevented from continuing their journey.

Representatives of the Belgian fuel sector have asked the authorities to intervene more quickly.  Fuel tankers are still being stopped and the load of some trucks is being plundered.  Johan Mattart of the Belgian fuel sector says: "It's like the Wild West.  You wouldn't expect this in a country like Belgium."

Top stories