Several hundred people are protesting around the European summit in Brussels since 12:00 p.m. this Thursday. They are targeting free trade agreements and current austerity policies in Europe. The Schuman metro station is closed, reveals Brussels public transport operator Stib, and traffic is disrupted on Rue Loi and Rue Belliard, add Brussels-Ixelles police representatives.
Several roads have been blocked by different groups, including farmers driving tractors, CGSP, Ecolo J and CNE. The main group is located at the entrance to Parc du Cinquantenaire where public interventions are taking place. The protest started peacefully.
The march left the Tramway Museum at 10:00am and arrived at 1:00pm. The Italian delegation is wearing life-jackets. A 68-year-old Spanish protester believes the situation in Spain is a cause for much concern, saying, “The younger generation here in Spain is having to go find work elsewhere in Europe.” A Spanish union member said that “Health policies such as the closing down of hospitals are affecting the more vulnerable who struggle to have access to care.” A CGSP (civil servants unions federation) representative expressed disappointment after Thursday’s lunchtime talks on financing the public health sector with Health Minister Maggie De Block: “We are moving towards a class system when it comes to care. The wealthy will go pay for treatment in private clinics while public hospitals will not be able to provide care.”
Many different slogans are being heard. Feminists from Vie Feminine (Women’s Lives) argue that budget constraints affect women first. “We are rejecting the idea of a free trade agreement lowering social and environmental criteria,” explains a young supporter of Ecolo J. “We have been here for 10-15 years and we want to be allowed to work,” says a member of the migrant support group La Voix des Sans-Papiers. “We need serious migration policies. We have to work illegally and we are being exploited. It’s nothing short of a new form of slavery” A group of young French activists go so far as to request the abolition of the executive, legislative, and judiciary powers.