Police in Brussels fired water cannon and clouds of tear gas at 50,000 protesters demonstrating Sunday against COVID-19 vaccinations and restrictions European authorities are imposing to try to contain the fast-spreading omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Some of the protesters came from France, Germany and other countries, shouting “Liberty!” as they marched through the headquarters city of the European Union. Videos showed some black-clad protesters attacking a building used by the EU’s diplomatic service, hurling projectiles at its entrance and smashing windows.
Anti-vaccination demonstrators also marched in Barcelona, following protests in other European capitals on Saturday against vaccine passports and other requirements that national governments have imposed as daily coronavirus infections and hospitalizations surge because of the omicron strain.
In Brussels, white-helmeted riot police riot repeatedly charged after protesters who ignored instructions to disperse. Police water cannon trucks fired powerful jets and tear gas filled the air in the Belgian capital.
A protest leader yelled over a loudspeaker, “Come on people! Don’t let them take away your rights!”
Nearly 77% of Belgium’s total population have been fully vaccinated, and 53% have had a booster dose, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. Belgium has recorded more than 28,700 virus deaths in the pandemic.
Several thousand anti-vaccination mandate protesters marched in Washington along the National Mall. In the United States, the Supreme Court recently rejected a vaccination mandate President Joe Biden tried to impose on 84 million workers employed at large businesses but let stand a narrower mandatory vaccination order affecting 17 million hospital health care workers.
Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told ABC’s “This Week” show that the number of omicron cases in the U.S. has started to recede.
“Things are looking good,” he said. “I don’t want to be overconfident, but (the falling number of the coronavirus cases are) headed in the right direction.”
The Europe protests have been targeting new restrictions imposed by some governments. Protesters in Stockholm demonstrated Saturday against the vaccine passes needed to go to indoor sites where 50 or more people are congregated.
Protesters took to the streets of Paris to demonstrate against the new COVID pass, set to go into effect Monday, that will curtail the activities of the unvaccinated, restricting their ability to travel and go to entertainment sites, including bars, movie theaters and sports events.
Demonstrators in Helsinki protested the vaccination passes that can be required to enter restaurants and other venues. The protesters in Finland’s capital also demonstrated against the Finnish government’s move giving local and regional authorities the ability to enact wide-ranging measures to combat the omicron variant.
The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center in the U.S. reported Sunday that worldwide it has recorded 350 million COVID infections and 5.6 million deaths. The center said nearly 10 billion COVID vaccine shots have been administered.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press.