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Police clash with rioters as coronavirus protest descends into chaos

06:15 24/01/2022

Riot police clashed with protestors and deployed water cannons in the Cinquantenaire Park in Brussels in the wake of the European Demonstration for Democracy which took place in the capital on Sunday.

The demonstration against the continuing restrictions and measures related to the coronavirus pandemic was attended by about 50,000 people, according to police figures. The protest march was generally peaceful up until the early afternoon when it reached the European Quarter.

At around 14.00, some protestors began damaging buildings. The police then pushed the demonstrators away from the European institutions towards the Cinquantenaire Park with water cannons and tear gas.

The crowd and riot police then engaged in a game of cat and mouse in the park. Feeling strengthened by the thousands of protestors present, the rioters began charging the police and throwing projectiles.

At about 15.15, the leaders of the event, from the podium set up in the park for speeches, called for the evacuation of the park. It was only under pressure from the police that the crowd finally moved, a quarter of an hour later. By 16.15, the majority of the public had left the scene and the police moved to secure the area.

However, small groups of rioters remained outside the park, attacking police officers. A group of officers were forced to take shelter in one of the entrances to the metro station as objects ranging from burning rubbish bins to crowd barriers rained down on them.

"In total, about 60 people were arrested administratively and a dozen judicially for detention or projectile throwing," the police said in a statement. Three police officers and 12 protestors were taken to hospital.

This is the fifth such event in two months in Brussels. It is also the fifth time that riots have broken out.

The demonstration, organised by the non-profit association Europeans United, brought people to Brussels from all over the continent to protest against a range of issues including the potential introduction of mandatory vaccinations, the vaccination of children, and other health measures they consider to be curtailing their freedoms.

Written by Nick Amies