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Rioters fight Brussels police, smash headquarters of EU foreign service – POLITICO

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Protests in Brussels in opposition to coronavirus restrictions spiralled into violence on Sunday as protesters clashed with law enforcement officials and vandalized the places of work of the European Exterior Motion Service, the EU’s diplomatic arm.

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In a single of the biggest demonstrations in opposition to COVID-19 measures within the metropolis, an estimated 50,000 folks poured onto the streets, together with teams touring from outdoors Belgium, in line with a police spokesperson. The demonstration was organized by the EU-wide community Europeans United for Freedom and different teams that oppose well being restrictions.

Police used teargas and water cannons to clear the Cinquantenaire park close to the EU establishments after teams of protesters threw objects at officers and charged at them. Reside footage confirmed protesters at avenue degree hurling metallic fences and a burning dustbin at policemen under them within the entrance to a metro station. An escalator was later proven burning.

Hooded and masked demonstrators shattered the glass exterior of the EEAS workplace whereas police have been inside.

“The facet entrance was vandalized,” mentioned a Fee spokesperson, including that no one was at risk. High diplomat Josep Borrell visited the places of work to examine the harm and tweeted his condemnation of “the mindless destruction and violence.”

The police mentioned on Sunday night that three officers and 12 protesters have been taken to hospital, however none with life-threatening accidents. About 70 folks have been detained, they added.

The police spokesperson mentioned that the state of affairs across the EEAS constructing had cooled by round 5:30 p.m. Six folks have been arrested earlier than the protest began, in line with the spokesperson, with extra folks detained afterward.

Police mentioned they started clearing the protesters out of the streets at round 4:30 p.m., saying those that refused to go away can be arrested. By round 8 p.m. native time, the demonstration and rioters gave the impression to be cleared out.

Protesters have been staging demonstrations in opposition to coronavirus restrictions frequently within the Belgian capital since final 12 months, however Sunday’s rally marked a serious uptick in participation in contrast with an estimated 5,000 protesters earlier this month, and greater than the roughly 35,000 individuals who attended a protest final November that had additionally turned violent.

“Our most important demand is that emergency measures are launched in a democratic and balanced approach,” Tom Meert, chairman of Europeans United for Freedom, wrote on the group’s website.

“We don’t deny that there are ailments. Our arguments can be the identical within the case of a pure catastrophe or every other disaster: a rustic’s insurance policies have to be deliberate and based on the ideas of the democratic rule of legislation.”

David M. Herszenhorn contributed reporting.

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