‘Yellow vest’ protests spread to Belgium, Netherlands

Brussels: With France reeling under violent ‘yellow vest’ protests due to the hike in fuel taxes and deteriorating economic situation, demonstrations have spread like wildfire and entered Belgium and the Netherlands.

Hundreds of protesters wearing high-visibility yellow fluorescent vests descended upon the streets of Brussels to protest against higher fuel prices, where the agitation turned violent as protesters damaged public property and clashed with security forces, Anadolu News Agency reported.

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 agitation, 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.

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.

Macron, who said that the hike was necessary to tackle the threat of climate change, has drawn huge criticisms from the protestors, who believe that the French President has been enacting policies in favour of the country’s richest section of society.