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Thousands protest corona measures in Brussels

Thirty-five thousand people gathered in Brussels for a demonstration against corona restrictions.  Though mainly peaceful, a group of troublemakers were intent on violence and played a game of cat and mouse with the police.

The demonstration started out from the North Station at 2PM and protesters headed for the European District via the inner Brussels orbital ring road.

After the violent riots in the Netherlands the organisers here called for a peaceful protest.  "Protesters are demanding they are given back their liberty” says VRT’s Saskia De Schutter.

Demonstrators carried slogans including ‘Generation QR’ and ‘Vaccinate against political immorality’. The demo has the support of the far right Vlaams Belang.

Police say the demonstrators were 35,000 in number. At one point a group of demonstators left the official route of the demo and tried to head for the Wetstraat and the seat of government.

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After police were pelted with fireworks they deployed teargas and water cannon at the intersection of Kunstlaan and Jozef II-straat. "We are trying to keep protesters on the agreed route" a police spokesman explained.

Considerable damage needed to be cleaned up after the demo.  Some demonstrators attacked cars smashing windows.  One pavement café was trashed, while a fire was also lit.

Most demonstrators could do little else  but look on as a small number of the troublemakers set to work.  Most people didn’t head for the protest with violence in mind.

While most demonstrators made off home around 5PM a group of troublemakers played a game of cat and mouse with the police.

At one point police managed to cordon off the troublemakers in the Jubel Park.  Forty arrests were made.  Three police officers were injured and had to be taken to hospital.  They were soon discharged but are now on sick leave.  Six police vans were damaged.

One demonstrator too was injured and had to be taken to hospital in an ambulance.

The Mayor of the City of Brussels, Philippe Close, has ordered close analysis of police video footage to allow the culprits to be identified and brought to justice.

Few demonstrators wore face coverings.  Many donned face masks to travel to the demo on public transport, where this is mandatory, but the minute they arrived, the masks disappeared.

Quizzed about why people had joined the demo demonstrators replied: “We are opposed to vaccination”, “We want to get rid of the government” and “Open up instead of Lockdown”.

As a result of the demo traffic on the inner orbital ring road was brought to a halt.  Several tunnels were closed. The Park metro station was shut too with no trains stopping.

Earlier a train carrying demonstrators was stopped in Oudenaarde (East Flanders) because many passengers had failed to mask.  Following consultations with the police the rail company decided to allow the train to continue its journey but without any further stops on the way to Brussels.

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Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

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