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Belgian police fire water cannon amid fuel price protests

Belgian police fire water cannon amid fuel price protests

Belgian police fired water cannon in central Brussels on Friday to drive back protesters inspired by France’s “yellow vest” movement who hurled rocks and firecrackers near the prime minister’s office. For nearly three hours, crowds of people complaining about fuel prices and a squeeze on living standards had disrupted traffic and walked the streets in…

Belgian police fired water cannon in central Brussels on Friday to drive back protesters inspired by France’s “yellow vest” movement who hurled rocks and firecrackers near the prime minister’s office.

For nearly three hours, crowds of people complaining about fuel prices and a squeeze on living standards had disrupted traffic and walked the streets in an unauthorised demonstration, largely promoted via social media.

Police said about 60 people were arrested before the violence, mostly for blocking roads or carrying large fireworks.

Several hundred people wearing the fluorescent safety vests drivers must carry in their vehicles eventually converged on the office of prime minister Charles Michel. Some threw rocks, firecrackers and road signs towards police who doused them with high-pressure water jets.

Police spray tear gas during clashes with protesters in Belgium.

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Police spray tear gas during clashes with protesters in Belgium. Photograph: Yves Herman/Reuters

Protests in Belgium, notably around fuel depots in the French-speaking south, have been inspired by the yellow vest – or “gilet jaune” – actions in France against increases in fuel duty imposed by President Emmanuel Macron’s government as part of efforts to reduce emissions causing global warming.

France’s minister for overseas territories, Annick Girardin, was forced to cut short a meeting with fuel tax demonstrators on the French island of Réunion on Friday after being booed by protesters shouting “Macron, resign!” The Indian Ocean island of around 800,000 people has been brought to a standstill by demonstrations against the fuel duty increases.

In Brussels people chanted “Michel, resign!” on Friday. Michel, a liberal ally of Macron, voiced sympathy for people’s troubles on Thursday, but added: “Money doesn’t fall from the sky.”

His centre-right coalition faces an election in May.

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