Riot In Brussels Over Budget Cuts

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Belgian police fired water cannons and tear gas on nearly 15,000 demonstrators who had thrown bottles and stones to show their anger at cuts in budgets that affected social spending throughout Europe.

Protesters who were originally peaceful were frustrated by police manoeuvres which led to a violent confrontations when a group of demonstrators entered Rue de la Loi, the Brussels street which separates the European Commission headquarters and the Council of Ministers building where heads of state meet on a three monthly basis. The group of protesters increased in size leading g to clashes with police. As a reaction the activists blocked other key roads and created a traffic gridlock.

Trade union demonstrators who made up the bulk of the protesters from across the continent are particularly incensed by budget cuts since they aim to lower wages.

“The European Commission’s annual examination of growth as well as the competitiveness pact launched by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy will drag wages and social rights down to dangerous levels,” said the Belgium prospectors in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Belgium’s Socialist FGTB union predicted about 15,000 protesters were expected to show up for the rally, although police said there were only about 12,000 in attendance.

Protesters were also angered by an alleged plan to raise EU officials retirement age.

“The level of pensions, social security and work flexibility, that has been put on the table is unacceptable,” said Myriam Delmee, vice-president of the Belgian union BBTK.