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Tense standoffs, clashes at Brussels COVID demo

Belgian police deployed water cannon on demonstrators gathered in central Brussels on Sunday, as they protested against reinforced measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, which the government imposed to counter the latest spike in cases. Many in the huge demonstration that police estimated at 35,000 people also protested against the strong advice to get vaccinated and any moves to impose mandatory shots. Shouting “Freedom, freedom, freedom,” and singing the anti-fascist song “Bella Ciao,” protesters held signs which varied from far-right insignia to the rainbow coalition flags of the LGBT community. There were smoke bombs and firecrackers, but there was no noteworthy violence when the first marchers reached the end point outside European Union headquarters. Over the past several days, there have been marches in many European nations as one government after another tightened measures. Dutch police arrested more than 30 people during unrest in The Hague and other towns in the Netherlands on Saturday, following much worse violence the previous night.