With France reeling after widespread and sometimes-violent ‘yellow vest’ protests, demonstrations are beginning to spread like wildfire to the rest of Europe.
Belgium and the Netherlands have awakened.
Hundreds of protesters wearing high-visibility fluorescent hazard vests descended upon the streets of Brussels; to protest against higher fuel prices, where the agitation turned to violence. Protesters damaged public property and clashed with security forces.
Amid the tensions, police personnel were forced to use water cannons and pepper spray in a bid to disperse the demonstrators.
Protestors gathered in Arts-Loi in Brussels and staged a massive walkout towards Schuman Roundabout, home to a number of European Union offices and towards the European Parliament, but were stopped by the security forces.
During the clashes, the agitators blocked arterial roads, threw stun grenades and damaged traffic signals and the environment. Over 100 people have been detained by the police so far. They have demanded Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel to step down from his post.
In the cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam in the Netherlands, protestors staged a peaceful demonstration in various parts, singing and handing flowers to the passers-by and asking them to participate in the demonstration, according to local media reports.
Security has been heightened in both the countries as more protests are planned in the coming days.
Back in France, at least 200 people were arrested on Saturday, with the police resorting to firing hundreds of tear gas shells to disperse crowds during the ongoing fourth week of protests across the country against President Emmanuel Macron-led government.
At least 1,385 protesters were arrested across France during the fourth weekend of “gilets jaunes” or the “yellow vest” demonstrations.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said that as of Saturday evening, 1,385 people, with 920 alone in Paris, were arrested in connection to the demonstrations that attracted 125,000 people around the country and 10,000 in the capital, reports Efe news.
Castaner, who warned that the number of arrests will increase since the violence in Paris and some other cities will continue, said that 118 demonstrators were known to have been injured along with 17 police officials.
A number of France’s monuments, including the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris, remained closed as authorities anticipated a repeat of last week’s violence, deploying over 8,000 policemen in the French capital to maintain order.
The protests on Saturday were the fourth in a series that last week culminated into the worst rioting in France for decades. The government expects more protests in the country in the following days, owing to which, around 89,000 security personnel have been deployed across France.
The yellow vest protests, which initially began as a campaign against skyrocketing fuel prices, has expanded into a huge agitation over discontent on a wide variety of issues against the French government in recent weeks.
The demonstrations, which began on November 17, went on to become one of France’s worst rioting in decades as protesters clashed with the police, looted shops and set fire to vehicles around Paris’ Champs Elysees avenue last weekend.
During protests on December 1, 201 civilians and 284 police personnel were injured amid scenes of urban guerrilla tactics. Some have speculated that Macron put the violent protestors in place as an excuse to quell the protests.
French authorities deployed 89,000 police officer(65,000 the week before), with 8,000 of them in the capital and this time, with orders to act quickly against any fighting in order to prevent destruction. They were also instructed to raise barricades, when necessary.
Macron, who said that the hike was necessary to tackle the threat of climate change, has in turn drawn huge amounts of criticism. Protestors believe that the French President has been enacting policies in favour of the country’s richest section of society.