Confrontations during farmers’ protests, death in heavy rush hour around Brussels

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EPA
Protesting farmers on Luxemburgplein in Brussels

NOS Newstoday, 3:35 PMAmended today, 6:23 PM

During a large farmers’ protest in Brussels, there were several confrontations with the police and there was vandalism. Destruction has been caused especially on Luxembourg Square, right next to the European Parliament. The police have arrested four people and are trying to prevent further escalation as much as possible. Around 6 p.m. the police entered the square to disperse the farmers.

The first farmers left just after 5 p.m., VRT reports. This coincided with the evening rush hour and led to congestion on the ring road. The police are calling on road users to be careful in traffic. It is also busy on the Antwerp ring road and in the province of Limburg.

The driver of a van was killed on the E40 near Brussels. The bus drove into a traffic jam on the back of a truck, reports the Flemish newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws. The traffic jam is said to be a result of the farmers’ protests. This afternoon there were already three accidents due to the resulting traffic jams. Several people were injured.

Destructions

Earlier today, a statue was severely damaged on Luxembourg Square. One of the figures surrounding the statue, of nineteenth-century steel pioneer John Cockerill, was pulled down and burned.

“Completely wrong,” responds Belgian Prime Minister De Croo. “We need to get away from the clash between agriculture and industry. Farmers and entrepreneurs are not opposites. We need them both for a strong and sustainable economy.”

On the square, where a ‘campfire’ had been lit since last night, farmers occasionally clashed with the police this morning. Initially, fireworks were set off, a manure cart was opened and the police were pelted with eggs and beer bottles, but later street furniture was also thrown. The police responded by spraying fire hoses and tear gas was also used.

“A large group keeps it quiet, but it is not without incident,” says a VRT reporter. “Emotions occasionally get heated. You heard farmers say this morning: we are not so much angry as we are concerned. But you do feel an anger, a frustration that has built up for years and that is now being expressed.”

  • EPA

    Demonstrators at the police cordon on Luxemburgplein
  • EPA

    Demonstrators on Luxembourg Square
  • EPA

    Tractors at the European Parliament

The protest took place throughout Belgium, but focused mainly on the capital, where a European summit is being held today. Government leaders are also expected to discuss the farmers’ protests there, although this was not officially on the agenda.

This morning, more than a thousand farmers drove into the capital with tractors with the intention of paralyzing traffic in the Brussels region.

There are also protests in other Belgian cities. There are blockages at the ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge, where 1,400 trucks stood still this afternoon. There is also a lot of disruption in Ghent, as well as on various highways and the cloverleaf near Lummen.

Cat and mouse game

Farmers are also blocking supermarket distribution centers in various places in the country, sometimes for the fourth day in a row. Supermarkets fear empty lines, VRT reports.

The police continue to focus on consultations to avoid an escalation of farmers’ protests in Brussels and elsewhere, but will “intervene where necessary”, Minister of the Interior Verlinden told the Belga news agency. “Destroying monuments, tearing down street infrastructure, cat and mouse games with our police officers will be tackled.”

Images from the protest in Brussels this morning:

Farmers protest with more than a thousand tractors at the EU summit in Brussels

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Confrontations farmers protests death heavy rush hour Brussels

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