Huge anti-austerity march in Brussels turns into violent riot
Austerity riots came to Brussels yesterday when angry clashes broke out when more than 130,000 people marched through the Belgian capital's streets.
A number of unpopular austerity measures introduced by the new centre-right government elected recently brought unprecedented numbers onto the streets of the famously sedate city.
Police deployed water cannon as dockworkers, metalworkers and students vented their anger.
The violence flared up at the end of an otherwise peaceful protest, with tear gas deployed as some radical demonstrators hurled objects at riot police and launched attacks with the barriers against the officials. Some set off coloured smoke flares.
At least 14 people were taken to hospital following the violence, according to national daily HLN.be.
The Belgian government, which assumed power just a month ago, has caused unrest with promises to raise the retirement age, cancel a wage rise in line with inflation and cut health and social security benefits - moves that undermine the country's welfare state.
"They are hitting the workers, the unemployed. They are not looking for money where it is, I mean people with a lot of money," said Philippe Dubois, who came from the industrial rust belt of Liege.
The unexpectedly massive march opens a month-long campaign by the trade unions against the business-friendly governing coalition and is to be capped with a nationwide strike on December 15.