Riots erupted in the Belgian capital of Brussels on Sunday as tens of thousands of protesters demonstrated against Covid-19 restrictions and mandatory vaccination plans outside of the European Union institutions.
Tensions were high as protesters launched firecrackers and cobblestones at authorities, torched vehicles and vandalized EU buildings as their expressed outrage over the government’s handling of the pandemic.
According to police, around 70 people were detained following the violent scenes which many described as reminiscent of a war zone, and at least 15 individuals were hospitalized with various injuries.
Reports suggest that over 50,000 demonstrators were in attendance, with many coming from neighboring France and Germany to voice their displeasure at their perceived loss of liberty during the global health crisis.
The protest escalated in some places into violent clashes with police, who dispersed the demonstrators with water cannons and tear gas. According to the DPA, thousands of people also demonstrated over the weekend in several cities in Germany.
The demonstrators shouted “Freedom!” and waved their native countries’ flags, including Germany, France, Romania, and Poland. Many protesters did not wear face masks.
Violence erupted in the neighborhood of the EU’s institutions with several videos posted on social media capturing demonstrators in black throwing firecrackers, cobblestones, and other items into the European External Action Service building and smashing several windows. At least 12 protesters and three police officers were taken to hospital.
In addition to opponents of government measures to fight coronavirus, their supporters demonstrated in many cities across Germany over the weekend, however the atmosphere was mostly calm.
In Erfurt, police used pepper spray to prevent protesters from marching towards the state parliament.
In Stuttgart, people gathered in front of the Südwestrundfunk (SWR) public broadcast seat to express disagreement about its reporting. They chanted the slogan “lying print.” The German Journalists Association in Baden-Württemberg said some demonstrators did not understand the principle of press freedom and that SWR did not submit to the public the reports requested “from above,” as many protesters claim.