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Protests against COVID-19 restrictions turn violent in Brussels

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(Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)

Protests against Covid-19 restrictions turned violent in Brussels on Sunday, resulting in police using tear gas and water cannons on protesters.

Around 8,000 protesters marched toward the European Union headquarters in Brussels, chanting "freedom" and setting off fireworks, Raidió Teilifís Éireann reported.

Video footage from the protest captured by Bloomberg Quicktake on Twitter depicts a very diverse crowd of Belgians protesting vaccine mandates and COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

"I think every person has the choice to take the vaccine, it's his own choice. That's freedom in my opinion," a protester named Gechet told reporters.

Many off-duty firefighters also appeared at the protest in uniform instead of going to work, indicating that protesting restrictive lockdowns and the right to refuse vaccinations is important than their jobs.

"(This matters) beyond my job ... I came for my freedom as a human being today," one firefighter said in the footage from Bloomberg Quicktake.

The protest took a violent turn after the main crowd dispersed and about 100 people stormed the police barricade blocking access to the European Commission, according to ABC News. The protesters threw trash and other objects, including a bicycle, and set off fireworks and flares. Belgian police set off tear gas bombs and water cannons on the ground in response. No injuries have been reported, according to ABC News.

The protest was in response to the Belgian government's coronavirus restrictions, which have grown progressively tighter for the third consecutive week. The Belgian government announced the new measures on Friday.

The new measures include lowering the age of mask mandates for children to 6 years old and closing down primary schools a week earlier for the Christmas and New Year holidays. Secondary schools will be forced to switch to a hybrid system of classes, half at home and the other half in person at school, according to Reuters.

With a population of 11 million people, Belgium has a recorded average of more than 17,800 daily coronavirus infections over the last seven days. The figures include 44 deaths, according to Raidió Teilifís Éireann.

Belgium is not the only European country that experienced COVID lockdown protests over the weekend.

Protesters in Luxembourg destroyed a barricade blocking a Christmas market and the vaccination tent blocking entry to the market. It was reported that shoppers had to show proof of vaccination or negative COVID tests to enter the market.

Protesters in Austria have taken to the streets in "musical protests." The unvaccinated in Austria could face fines up to €1,450 for refusing to be vaccinated, according to the Daily Mail.

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