About 35,000 people demonstrated against the tightening of sanitary measures

BRUSSELS – Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Brussels on Sunday to protest against new health restrictions imposed by the government.

© Provided by The Canadian Press

According to police estimates, most of the 35,000 people present at the rally had already returned to their homes when the protest escalated into violence. Several hundred people began to attack the police, smash cars and set garbage cans on fire. Police responded with tear gas and water cannons and attempted to restore order as dusk set in in the Belgian capital.

Three police officers and a protester were injured in the clashes, 42 were taken into custody and two were arrested and charged in the wave of violence that followed the march.

The demonstrators had come to protest against the government’s firm measures on vaccination and against any attempt to make the vaccine compulsory.

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To the cries of “Freedom! Freedom ! Freedom !” and singing the anti-fascist song “Bella Ciao”, protesters lined up behind a huge banner saying “Together for Freedom” and marched to the European Union headquarters. In the middle of the crowd, signs ranged from far-right badges to rainbow flags of the LGBTQ2 + community.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said last week that Europe has become the hotspot for the pandemic, the only region in the world where coronavirus-related deaths are on the rise. The fall wave of infections is overwhelming hospitals in many countries of central and eastern Europe, including Ukraine, Russia, Romania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Over the past few days, many anti-vaccination marches have taken place in European countries, with governments stepping up their measures one after another. Dutch police arrested more than 30 people during unrest in The Hague and other cities in the Netherlands on Saturday, after much more serious violence on Friday night.

Last Monday, Austria decreed a ten-day national lockdown for everyone, after first imposing lockdown on unvaccinated people. Vienna’s Christmas markets were packed on Sunday, with locals and tourists alike enjoying the holiday spirit before shops and food kiosks were forced to close.

Raf Casert , The Associated Press

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