Saturday 20 January 2018

Anti-austerity protest in Brussels marred by violent clashes

Protesters demonstrate in Brussels (AP)
Protesters demonstrate in Brussels (AP)

Brussels' police chief has been injured during clashes at the end of a major anti-austerity demonstration attended by 50,000 people in the centre of the Belgian capital.

Police chief Pierre Vandersmissen was treated for a head injury after he fell to the ground as rocks were thrown by a minority of protesters when most of the marchers had already disbanded.

The demonstration was called to protest the centre-right government's social and economic policies, which trade unions say cut deep into the foundations of Belgium's welfare state.

In all, two police officials and eight protesters were injured in the clashes, during which police fired water cannons. About a dozen people were detained.

It was a repeat of previous anti-austerity protests when the violence of dozens overshadowed the march of tens of thousands.

Under the slogan "Our cup runs over" the main unions joined in the march, united in their opposition against moves to increase workers' flexibility at work, longer careers before pensions kick in and less pay under tougher conditions.

The trade unions say the free market policies of Liberal Prime Minister Charles Michel over the past two years are costing an average family about 100 euro (£76) a month, while the promise of many extra jobs remains elusive.

Instead the trade unions want the government to tackle tax evasion.

Press Association

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