Brussels police arrest hundreds in ‘yellow vest’ riot

Ghassen Fridhi

Published: Updated:

Belgian police detained more than 400 people on Saturday after “yellow vest” protesters inspired by riots in France threw rocks and firecrackers and damaged shops and cars as they tried to reach official buildings in Brussels.

Belgian police fired tear gas and water cannons at stone-throwing yellow-vested protesters near the country’s government offices and parliament.

Protesters said their first intention was to march until the EU headquarters in Brussels but were directly blocked by the police who were prepared for mass gatherings during the day.

According to the Belgian media outlets, authorities deployed around 1,000 policemen in Brussels, many of whom were undercover officers in plainclothes.

“I am fed up. This can’t continue as it functions today. We want to express it. We can see that there are a lot of angry people today. So we are expressing it together,” one protester told Al Arabiya English.

Another protester said the Belgian government was pocketing a lot of the state funds and that transparency was among their main demands on Saturday.

“And as soon as we open our mouth, they gas us. The state gives orders to the police to gas us, to use police pumpers but we don’t do anything bad. We are just giving our opinion and showing our disagreement,” a protester said.

The movement in Belgium, inspired by the “gilets jaunes”, or yellow vest, protests in neighboring France over the past month, has given voice to complaints about the cost of living and demanded the removal of Belgium’s centre-right coalition government, six months before a national election is due in May.