Belgian police fired water cannons at a rally on Sunday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck. measures against the coronavirus pandemic.
Some 8,000 people marched through Brussels to the headquarters of the European Union and shouted “Freedom!” and send off fireworks.
The crowd was smaller than the 35,000 vaccine and lockout skeptics who marched last month.
Protesters were barred from reaching the roundabout outside EU headquarters by a barbed wire barrier and a series of rioters.
As two drones and a helicopter circled overhead, they threw fireworks and beer cans. Police responded with water cannon and tear gas.
As the crowd spread into smaller groups around the European Quarter, there were more clashes and some set barricades full of rubbish on fire.
Demonstrations in European cities
Several European countries have seen protests in recent weeks as governments respond to a increase in COVID cases with stricter restrictions.
The organizers of Sunday’s protests hoped to match the November 21 rally, during which police caught off guard when the rally turned violent.
The protesters were opposed to mandatory health measures, such as masks, locks and vaccine passes, and some shared conspiracy theories.
Banners on Sunday compared the stigmatization of the uninitiated to the treatment of Jews forced to wear yellow stars in Nazi Germany.
“Covid = Organized Genocide,” said one sign. “The QR code is a swastika,” another stated, referring to the EU COVID secure digital certificate.
“I can not tolerate discrimination in any form, and now there is the vaccine pass that is discriminatory, sanctions for [unvaccinated] caregivers who are also discriminatory, there is compulsory vaccination that is on our way, ”said one protester, martial arts teacher Alain Sienaort, according to the Reuters news agency.
“It is already discrimination, so we have to fight it. We do not want a dictatorship. “
Parents, some of whom brought small children to the protest, sang their conviction that the vaccine would make their toddlers sick.
Firefighters who were not on duty in uniform marched at the head of the protest as it marched through the city, demanding the right to refuse vaccination.
The measures put in place to fight COVID in Belgium were decided by the country’s own national and regional governments, but the European Union also provoked the anger of the skeptics.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said on Wednesday that it was time for her to “think about compulsory vaccination”, a proposal that was condemned by speakers during the protest.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo on Friday announced a series of measures to tighten sanitary rules, bring forward school Christmas holidays and ask children aged six and older to wear masks.
Belgium, with a population of 11 million, has recorded an average of more than 17,800 daily infections with COVID-19 over the past seven days, as well as 44 deaths.
About 800 people with severe forms of the disease are in intensive care in hospitals across the country, leading to overcrowding and delaying treatment for many other conditions.
Separately, police in Austria said about 40,000 gathered in the capital Vienna on Saturday to expose a closure that would take effect on Monday and mandatory vaccination that begins in February.
Protesters carried signs saying “No to vaccine mandates” or “Jesus protects the children, not vaccines.” Many ignored mask requirements.
Four officers were injured during the arrest of an intoxicated protester, police said.
Demonstrations were also reported throughout the weekend throughout Luxembourg, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.