updateThousands of farmers are gathering in Brussels today to protest. In the meantime, the atmosphere there has changed: on Luxemburgplein in the center of the European district, some activists are throwing smoke bombs, fireworks and manure at the police. Passers-by are also attacked with firecrackers. A tree was also set on fire and part of the John Cockerill monument was removed from its plinth.
Lien Verlinden, Carmen Schelkens, Joren Wollants
The farmers are in the capital to protest against the European Union’s agricultural policy. Today, heads of state and government are gathering in Brussels for summit consultations. According to the police, 1,000 tractors are already in Brussels for the action. They are mainly located at Luxemburgplein and De Meeûssquare.
It was already grim at a quarter to nine on Luxemburgplein in the center of Brussels’ European district. Some activists threw smoke bombs and fireworks at the police. In response, the police have already had to use tear gas. A federal police helicopter is also deployed and flies above the square.
(Read more below the photo.)
The activists also removed part of the monument in honor of John Cockerill from its pedestal. This is the statue of the mechanic Beaufort, one of the four workers depicted around the monument to the former Belgian-British industrialist.
That is not the only damage to the public space on the square. For example, some vandals tried to saw down a tree. The police responded with the high-pressure water hose. Farmers set the tree on fire a while later.
Around 10:30 am, some demonstrators tried to break through the police barrier at the European Parliament. The police responded briefly with tear gas, after which they further kept the activists at a distance with fire hoses. For the time being this seems to be working, although officers are still being pelted with burning manure and eggs.
(Read more below the photo.)
Besides a few hotheads, there are of course also farmers who protest in a serene manner. Cattle farmer Manu has traveled to the capital together with other farmers from Ciney. That’s enough for him and his colleagues. “We work very hard and barely get anything out of it. The entire sector is under fire. It can no longer continue like this,” he said.
The situation is also high among livestock and vegetable farmers Paul Verspecht (36) and Pieter-Jan Embrechts (28) from Merchtem. “Europe imposes laws on us that are simply not feasible. And yet they are much more lax towards the industry. Everything is running smoothly in this country. The working man is always punished. There is only one solution: the government must resign,” said Paul. Pieter-Jan agrees: “We have to do agriculture in a way that is devised from behind a desk. At a certain point, enough is enough.”
The action also causes a lot of traffic problems. The authorities called for people to use public transport as much as possible. The Reyers-Centrum Tunnel is closed to traffic coming from the E40-A3. Belliardstraat and the surrounding streets have been completely taken over by the demonstrators and are also closed. Schumanplein was also closed at 8 o’clock this morning.
In addition to the European district, which is inaccessible from Wetstraat to the Belliard tunnel, the Tervuren tunnel in the direction of the center is also closed. The same applies to the Belliard tunnel in the direction of the E40. Brussels Mobility also reports disruption at Troonplein around 10:50 am.
In addition, there is also disruption on the E411 between Overijse and Oudergem, especially around the Leonard intersection, and the E19 towards Brussels is closed at Hoog-Itter, and in Nivelles towards Mons.
LOOK. VTM NEWS journalist Tessa Rens stands among the demonstrating farmers and feels the atmosphere becoming grimmer
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