BRUSSELS (AP) — Ten of thousands of people marched through central Brussels on Sunday to protest reinforced COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the Belgian government to counter the latest spike in coronavirus cases.
Many among the police estimate of 35,000 at the rally were also against the government’s strong advice to get vaccinated and any possible moves to impose mandatory shots.
Shouting “Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!” and singing the anti-fascist song “Bella Ciao,” protesters lined up behind a huge banner saying “Together for Freedom” and marched to the European Union headquarters. Amid the crowd, the signs varied from far-right insignia to the rainbow flags of the LGBT community.
At the end of the protest, a few hundred stayed behind to throw bottles and sticks at police, who used tear gas and a water cannon to try to disperse them.
The World Health Organization said last week that Europe was the hot spot of the pandemic right now, the only region in which COVID-19 deaths were rising. The autumn surge of infections is overwhelming hospitals in many Central and Eastern European nations, including Ukraine, Russia, Romania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Over the past several days, there have been many anti-vaccination marches in European nations as one government after another tightened measures. Dutch police arrested more than 30 people during unrest in The Hague and other towns in the Netherlands on Saturday, following much worse violence the previous night.
Austria is going into a 10-day national lockdown on Monday for all of its people, after first imposing a lockdown on the unvaccinated.
Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic