France’s “yellow vest” movement spread to Belgium Friday as police turned water cannons on stone-throwing protesters who torched two police vehicles in central Brussels.
The Belgian protests came as France prepared for “Act 3” of its nationwide protests against green fuel tax hikes and the high cost of living, reported The Telegraph. The protests are showing little sign of abating after talks between yellow vest representatives and the prime minister ended in fiasco.
In Brussels, around 300 people demonstrated near major EU buildings with at least 60 arrested for possession of box-cutters, smoke bombs or tear gas canisters.
Two police vans were tipped over and torched as the stand-off continued and protestors blocked off the tunnels that ease Brussels’ notorious congestion. Metro stations were closed as a precaution as the protest teetered on the brink of street-fighting, despite the demonstrators’ repeated insistence their march was peaceful.
“Incomprehensible violence towards the police who do their best every day to protect citizens and society. Scandalous,” tweeted Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon.
Later, loud bangs rang out as protesters marched down Brussels’ busiest road throwing firecrackers, chanting football songs and being honked by supportive and furious drivers.
“We want this movement to spread,” said Gilles, who did not want to give his surname. “It began in France, it is here now, and we want it to continue to Germany and the Netherlands, across Europe, even to England.”
Charles Michel, the Belgian prime minister, has pushed ahead with unpopular reforms since the Liberal formed a coalition government with the Flemish nationalist NVA. “The thugs and looters will have to be punished,” he said.
In Paris, builders were busy boarding up flagship banks and stores along the Champs-Elysées as “the world’s most beautiful avenue” braced for its third straight Saturday of violence.
In what President Emmanuel Macron called “war scenes”, a peaceful protest descended into riots and tear gas, leaving many of the avenue’s windows smashed by cobblestones and other objects.
Caught woefully off guard last Saturday, police are taking no chances this time: they have mobilised up to 5,000 officers, are banning traffic and allowing in pedestrians only after ID checks.