BRUSSELS (AP) – Police fired water cannons and thick clouds of tear gas on Sunday in Brussels to disperse people protesting COVID-19 vaccinations and government restrictions aimed at curbing the Omicron variant.
Police said the protest in the Belgian capital drew an estimated 50,000 people, some travelling from France, Germany and other countries to take part. Protesters yelled
“Liberty!” as they marched and some had violent confrontations with police.
Video showed black-clad protesters attacking a building used by the European Union’s (EU) diplomatic service, hurling projectiles at its entrance and smashing windows.
The protests followed demonstrations in other European capitals on Saturday against vaccine passports and other requirements that European governments imposed as daily infections and hospitalisations have surged due to the Omicron variant.
In Brussels, white-helmeted police riot officers repeatedly charged after protesters who ignored instructions to disperse. Police water cannon trucks fired powerful jets and snaking trails of gas filled the air.
Brussels police said 70 people were detained and three officers and 12 demonstrators required hospital treatment.
Nearly 77 per cent of Belgium’s population has been fully vaccinated, and 53 per cent have had a booster dose, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Belgium has seen over 28,700 virus deaths overall.