‘Yellow vest’ protests intensify, spread to Belgium, Netherlands

Armoured vehicles rolled through central Paris on Saturday as riot police clashed with “yellow vest” demonstrators, who set fire to barricades and hurled rocks in the latest demonstrations against President .

By mid-afternoon Saturday, police arrested more than 1,000 people nationwide and held 720 in custody, with 135, including security personnel, injured. The protests that started in France made its mark in and , too, as hundreds of ‘yellow-vests’ descended upon the streets of Brussels and Rotterdam.

In Belgium, police fired tear gas and water cannons at the protesters calling for the resignation of PM Charles Michel after they tried to breach a riot barricades.

Protesters threw stones, road signs, fireworks, flares and other objects at police blocking their entry to an area where Michel’s offices, other government buildings are located. Police spokeswoman Ilse Van de Keere said around 400 protesters were gathered in the area. About 100 were detained. The reasons for the protests are not entirely clear. Neither Belgium nor the Netherlands has proposed a hike in fuel tax — the catalyst for the massive demonstrations in France in recent weeks.

Instead, protesters appeared to hail at least in part from a populist movement that is angry at government policy in general and what it sees as the widening gulf between mainstream politicians and the voters who put them in power. Some in Belgium appeared intent only on confronting police. The rallies disrupted road and rail traffic. Walking behind a banner reading “social winter is coming,” the protesters chanted “(President) Macron, Michel resign.”

In the Dutch city of Rotterdam, a few hundred protesters marched peacefully, singing and handing flowers to passers-by. Sisters Beb and Ieneke Lambermont, aged 76 and 67 respectively, were among them. “It is not going well in Dutch society,” Ieneke said. “The social welfare net we grew up with is gone,” she said. “The government is not there for the people,” she said.

About 100 protesters gathered in a peaceful demonstration outside the Dutch parliament in The Hague. At least two protesters were detained in Amsterdam.
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