Protest against COVID-19 measures turns violent in Brussels

A protest of tens of thousands against coronavirus measures in Brussels turned violent Sunday, as protesters threw objects at police, and officers used water cannons and tear gas to push back the demonstration.

According to police estimates, around 35,000 people gathered in front of the Gare du Nord train station for the protest called “Together for freedom” after the Belgian government last week announced stricter measures to combat rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

The new rules, which went into effect over the weekend, include compulsory mask-wearing for anyone aged 10 and above for indoor and certain outdoor activities, as well as making home-working mandatory four days a week and limiting the number of people present at gatherings.

“We denounce the measures restricting freedom, that haven’t constituted a structural solution for health services,” protest organizers said in a statement.

A group of protesters veered off the authorized path for the demonstration and were pushed back by police with water cannons and tear gas. By around 5 p.m. local time, police said the demonstration had been dispersed and officers would proceed to make arrests.

The crowd of attendees at the protest was diverse, including pensioners, families and children.

Doug Busvine contributed reporting.

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