BELGIAN riot cops today blasted Covid protesters with water cannons and tear gas as wild crowds descended on the country’s capital.
Officers tried to control the mass demonstrations in Brussels which saw windows smashed and projectiles hurled in objection to the EU nation’s Covid restrictions.
Up to 50,000 people turned up to demonstrate in the city on Sunday, with protesters travelling from across Europe to voice their anger.
Demonstrators yelled “حرية!” as they marched through the streets and clashed violently with police.
Footage also shows black-clad demonstrators hurling projectiles at a building used by the European Union’s diplomatic service, while smashing its windows.
White-helmeted riot officers could be seen trying disperse the crowds using loud speakers, but resorted to more extreme measures when their instructions were ignored.
Using water cannons, they fired powerful jets at the marchers, while thick clouds of smoke and trails of tear gas filled the air.
Officers were later forced to seek shelter in a metro station as they were pelted with metal barriers.
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The protest comes as the Omicron wave causes infections to reach record highs across Europe.
And it follows demonstrations across Europe on Saturday which were held against vaccine passports and other requirements that European governments have imposed as daily infections and hospitalisations surge.
Today’s protest saw demonstrators clutching signs slamming Belgium Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and the Covid Safe Pass.
The Covid Safe pass proves that citizens are vaccinated or have tested negative and is required for entry into numerous venues.
Organisers including the World Wide Demonstration for Freedom and Europeans United for Freedom had called for people to come from other EU states.
And flags from Poland, the Netherlands, France and Romania could be seen in the crowd.
Police said around 70 people were arrested, including a dozen for more serious offences including throwing projectiles and damaging property.
Three officers and 12 demonstrators were hospitalised, but none were in a life-threatening condition.
Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said in a statement: “Freedom of expression is one of the foundations of our society. Everyone is free to express their opinion.
“But our society will never accept indiscriminate violence, and even less towards our police forces. Those involved this Sunday will be prosecuted.”
في أثناء, Brussels City mayor Philippe Close tweeted that it had been a “difficult day”.
Belgium has seen more than 28,700 virus deaths overall.