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France's 'gilets jaunes' protests spread to Belgium

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France's 'gilets jaunes' protests spread to Belgium

'Gilets jaunes' at the Brussels protest on November 30, 2018
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REUTERS/Yves Herman
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The ‘gilet jaune’ (‘yellow vest’) wave from France reached the centre of Brussels on Friday.

Protesters in the Belgian capital, inspired by the French anti-tax movement, disrupted traffic and threw rocks at the office building of Prime Minister Charles Michel.

Local media estimated that 300 to 400 protesters were marching in Brussels on Friday morning.

Brussels police fired tear gas and water cannons at the crowds. The protesters blocked the Rue de la Loi, where EU institutions are based, as well as the surrounding area of Trône. Two police vans were set ablaze. The 'gilets jaunes' also detonated bangers outside the European Commission.

The spontaneous demonstration, organised on social media, was not authorised. Among the tensions, Belgian police also arrested a French journalist.

Called 'gilets jaunes' because of their fluorescent security jacket (mandatory in cars in France and in Belgium), the movement started in France on November 17 and is showing no sign of calming down.

The first marches were protesting increases in fuel duty, but the movement quickly widened to oppose French President Emmanuel Macron’s economic and fiscal policies as a whole.

In the south of Belgium, where most speak French, 'gilets jaunes' protests have been organised around petrol stations for a week.

Like in France, the Belgian yellow vests are asking for lower taxes and more purchasing power. Some also want their leader gone: demonstrators in Brussels chanted “Michel, resign!”, just like their French counterparts, who called for Macron’s resignation when marching on Paris’ Champs-Elysees last weekend.

“Our Prime minister earns €25,000 per month while we get €1,200 to live, raise kids, pay rent and taxes, we never have enough”, one man wearing a yellow vest at the Brussels protest told Euronews' Nima Ghadakpour.

“We are slaves, we work so that they can live like kings.” He added that he wanted money to be more equally distributed in the country: “Less tax, less bills, that’s all we’re asking for.”