One of Belgium's biggest labor demonstrations since World War Two brought some 100,000 workers to the capital Thursday to protest government free-market reforms and austerity measures. For two hours, the demonstrators peacefully marched down the main thoroughfares of Brussels to protest government policies that will raise the pension age, contain wages and cut into public services. Violence marred the end of the march, with police firing tear gas and water cannons. No casualties were immediately reported.
"They are hitting the workers, the unemployed. They are not looking for money where it is, I mean, people with a lot of money," said Philippe Dubois, from Liege. The march opens a month-long campaign by unions, to be capped with a nationwide strike on Dec. 15.
Belgium has a long tradition of collective bargaining between employers and workers, and successive coalition governments have been able to contain social disagreements. But the current coalition, made up of three pro-business parties and the centrist Christian Democrats, is the first in decades that has been able to set a clear free-market agenda.
- The Associated Press