The Brussels police arrested over 30 people during a demonstration against Belgium's coronavirus measures on Sunday afternoon.
The participants gathered at the North Station from 12:30 on Sunday, and started marching towards the Cinquantenaire Park from 13:30, said Ilse Van de keere, spokesperson for the Brussels-Capital/Ixelles police zone.
"The march took place quietly until the end," she told The Brussels Times. The protest ended around 17:30.
While the organisations behind the event stated that some 25,000 participants were present at the demonstration, the official police count showed 5,000 participants.
Before the start of the demonstration, the police administratively arrested eleven people, as they were in possession of pyrotechnics and flammable material, Van de keere confirmed.
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The demonstration was organised by ‘Samen voor Vrijheid’ (“Together for Freedom”), which brings together several organisations who are critical of the coronavirus vaccines, the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) or the measures in general, such as Viruswaanzin, Fight for Freedom, The Human Side and Belgians for Freedom.
They had called on "anyone who senses that something is not right" to join the march. "We are organising a large manifestation for constitutional freedoms and human rights. We denounce freedom-restricting measures that for one and a half years have not been a structural solution for health care and are no longer justifiable."
Setting Christmas trees on fire
At the previous protest organised by the same group on Sunday 21 November, about 35,000 people showed up to demonstrate. As heavy rioting broke out after that march, the organisation had repeatedly stressed that this protest was supposed to be "a peaceful gathering."
Yet, a group deliberately sought confrontation with the police in the European quarter after the demonstration. "Projectiles were thrown and inflammable materials were used," said Van de keere. Several bushes and Christmas trees set up by the city were also set on fire, according to local media.
At about 16:00, the police surrounded this small group of people confronting the police, which quickly calmed the situation down again, she added.
Van de keere stated that about 30 people were arrested administratively (meaning that the police recorded their identities and drew up an official report) and some people were arrested judicially (which means they were deprived of their liberty within the framework of a judicial investigation).