9th Dec 2023

Police clash with anti-vaxers outside EU Commission HQ

  • Water cannon and tear gas fired outside EU Commission HQ on Sunday (Photo: European Commission)
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Violent anti-lockdown protests erupted in Belgium on Sunday (21 November) and continued for a third night in the Netherlands, amid wider unrest in Europe.

A minority of demonstrators threw stones, smoke bombs, and fireworks at police outside the European Commission and EU Council headquarters in Brussels, who fired back with tear gas and water-cannon before the crowd of some 35,000 people dispersed.

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The protesters chanted "freedom" and carried placards with slogans such as "when tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty", according to Reuters, in reaction to last week's announcement that people should start working from home once more.

Rioting also broke out in the Dutch towns of Enschede, Groningen, Leeuwarden, and Tilburg over new coronavirus restrictions.

The Dutch violence was the third night in a row after five police were injured and 19 arrests were made in The Hague on Saturday and after Dutch police fired live ammunition in Rotterdam on Friday.

Thousands of peaceful anti-lockdown demonstrators also took to the streets in the Austrian, Croatian, Danish, and Italian capitals over the weekend.

The Austrian demonstration swelled to more than 30,000 people and five arrests were made, including for use of banned Nazi-era symbols.

"As of today, Austria is a dictatorship", Herbet Kickl, the head of Austria's far-right FPÖ party claimed, referring to the country's decision to make vaccination a legal requirement and to impose a full lockdown from Monday.

There were no sizeable protests in Paris, but there were violent clashes in the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe.

And some far-right French politicians also did their best to stir anger.

"Corrupt governments always end up slaughtering their people. The time has come for each of us to choose!", French far-right MEP Florian Philippot said on Saturday, referring to the Rotterdam police shootings.

"Where are our freedoms?", far-right party leader Marine Le Pen added on social media.

The new lockdowns and other hygiene measures come amid warnings by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that Europe has become the global centre of the pandemic.

"Covid-19 has become once again the number one cause of mortality in our region," the WHO's Europe director, Hans Kluge, told the BBC, with 500,000 more deaths predicted in Europe by March if nothing new was done.

The situation amounted to a "national emergency" and could also lead to a new lockdown in Germany, its health minister, Jens Spahn, warned.

Nearly 200 MEPs set to shun Strasbourg over Covid spike

Almost 200 MEPs want to use remote voting rather than attend next week's session in Strasbourg, due to Covid-19 worries. The parliament's senior administrator has instructed staff to follow Belgian four-day home working rules - as has the European Commission.

Central Europe struggles with new Covid-19 wave

A new wave of Covid-19 infections has been sweeping through central Europe, where the vaccination rate is generally below the EU average - partly due to low trust in institutions.


Why Is Italy struggling to convert its anti-vaxxers?

Almost every weekend, protesters continue to hold demonstrations and sit-ins across Italy in opposition to the so-called "green pass" — proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative Covid test needed to access workplaces and a whole host of public services.


How Wilders' Dutch extremism goes way beyond Islamophobia

Without losing sight of his pervasive Islamophobia, it is essential to note Geert Wilders' far-right extremism extends to other issues that could drastically alter the nature of Dutch politics — and end its often constructive role in advancing EU policies.

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