BRUSSELS – Belgian police used water cannon and pepper spray on protesters who had showered them with oranges and cobblestones during a demonstration Friday by labour unions demanding a better deal for Europe’s working men and women.
The protest in Brussels, in which thousands took part peacefully, was called by the European Trade Union Confederation to oppose austerity measures implemented across the 28-country European Union.
Participants also voiced their opposition to social dumping, whereby businesses import cheaper workers to replace local hires, or export jobs to a low-wage country or area.
As well as paralyzing traffic in the Belgian capital, the demonstration sent the U.S. Embassy into lockdown as the American ambassador to the EU, Anthony L. Gardner, was conducting an unrelated briefing for journalists. Embassy staff said it was the first lockdown they could recall in years.
At one of the protest hot spots, near the European Union headquarters buildings, longshoremen from the Belgian cities of Antwerp and Ghent clashed with riot police.
Police said one demonstrator was hurt when a rock he was trying to throw hit him on the head instead. Associated Press reporters saw several people who had been injured, including a policeman apparently struck by a cobblestone.
Organizers had expected 40,000 people to take part in the demonstration, but Brussels police spokeswoman Ilse Van de Keere estimated the turnout at about 25,000.