100k Protest Austerity in Brussels, Police Repression Sparks Riot
11/06/2014 — Brussels, Belgium
Belgian riot police fired tear gas and water cannon’s repressing the demonstrators on Thursday, at the first of what’s to be a series of anti-austerity demonstrations and strikes planned for the coming weeks. More than 100,000 people were on the streets of Brussels where they marched peacefully for almost two hours before violence broke out.
Car windows were smashed, other vehicles were overturned or set alight, and protsetors threw paving stones and fireworks. There were also reports of serious injuries among police as well as demonstrators. 14 demonstrators were reportedly taken to area hospitals, Brussels newspaper De Morgen reports.
For two hours, the demonstrators peacefully marched down the main thoroughfares of central Brussels to protest government policies that will raise the pension age, contain wages and cut into public services.
“They are hitting the workers, the unemployed. They are not looking for money where it is, I mean, people with a lot of money,” said Philippe Dubois, who came from the industrial rust belt of Liege.
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. But the current coalition, made up of three pro-business parties and the centrist Christian Democrats, is the first in decades that has been able to set such a clear free-market agenda.
The violence flared up at the end of an otherwise peaceful protest, when riot police presnt at the peaceful march provoked protesters and deployed tear gas, some radical demonstrators hurled objects at riot police and launched attacks with the barriers and against the officials. Some set off colored smoke flares. The resistance to tear gas and water cannon assault continued for hours.