What’s happening in Brussels? Protests turn sour as police fire water cannons on crowds

Brussels: Police deploy tear gas against anti-vaccine protesters

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In recent months protesters have been regularly gathering in their thousands on the streets of the Belgium capital, Brussels, to challenge a number of Covid restrictions the Government have introduced to mitigate the impacts of the virus. Currently, daily case numbers in the European nation are peaking at their highest levels since the pandemic began. Here, Express.co.uk breaks down the ongoing situation and what it centres around.

What happened on Sunday?

On Sunday tens of thousands of protesters marched through the streets of Brussels for the fifth time in the past two months to object to the country’s Covid policy.

The demonstration began from the North Station – one of the three major railway stations in Brussels – and had been largely peaceful until it reached one of the city’s largest urban parks, Cinquantenaire Park.

At this point, a group of demonstrators clashed with police leading to the deployment of water cannons and tear gas.

The protest was organised by Europeans United, together with several national branches of World Wide Demonstration and more than 600 local associations from all over Europe.

On Saturday a number of demonstrations took place in other European capitals to protest against vaccine passports and other requirements European Governments have imposed in the hope of ending the pandemic.

Last week Austria announced that its parliament had voted to become the first country in Europe to make Covid vaccinations mandatory for adults from next month.

Before it’s submitted into law the measure must be passed by the upper house of the Austrian parliament and then get signed off by President Alexander Van der Bellen.

Why are people protesting?

Protesters say they want the Government to abolish the rule which requires Covid certificates for individuals to enter various places, including bars and cinemas.

They’re also asking for Belgium’s scientific advisory council to consider a greater range of perspectives in their decision-making process.

The latest decision taken by Government officials means that from March 1 the validity of vaccination certificates will be reduced from 270 to 150 days, in a bid to encourage people to take up their booster vaccinations.

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A spokesperson for Europeans United said before the protest that they were “not against the Covid measures as such”.

They told the Belgian broadcaster VRT: “We are mainly against the undemocratic way in which they are created.

“Open debate is the best vaccine against a society sickened by polarisation. We are not Covid sceptics. And all views are welcome. We don’t want political recuperation.

“We want to point out that a large and ever-growing group of people no longer feel that they are heard in the social debate.

“In order to do something about the polarisation between people who are for or against measures, we want to initiate public debate so that people have a way to better understand other points of view.”

According to official figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO) Belgium broke its record number of daily Covid infections last Tuesday (January 18), with 61,925 cases.

To date, the country has recorded 28,759 deaths due to Covid over the course of the pandemic.

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