Violent Protests Spread from Paris to Belgium and the Netherlands
At least 700 people were arrested in Paris as 5,000 demonstrators faced off against 8,000 police in another violent demonstration by "yellow vest" protesters.
Riots broke out all over France despite the supposed cause of the violence being eliminated earlier in the week by the government of President Emmanuel Macron. The government had been claiming that a fuel tax increase was to blame for the protests, but the government rescinded the increase on Wednesday.
Donald Trump believes it was Macron's climate change policies:
But the protesters themselves were giving the real reason for the violence -- if anyone in Macron's government was listening.
"We are not here to destroy Paris, we are here to tell Macron we are f--king fed up," said one protester before the clashes with the police began, adding that the people are protesting ever-increasing taxes on the working class.
Many protesters slammed the French media for portraying the protests as led by violent agitators and for siding with Macron's government.
"We are not black bloc [black clad anarchists], we are ordinary people voicing our anger," said a protester who did not want to be identified.
Meanwhile, the contagion has spread to neighboring Belgium and the Netherlands.
Belgian police fired tear gas and water cannons at yellow-vested protesters calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Charles Michel after they tried to breach a riot barricade, as the movement that started in France made its mark Saturday in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Protesters in Brussels threw paving stones, road signs, fireworks, flares and other objects at police blocking their entry to an area where Michel's offices, other government buildings and the parliament are located.
Brussels police spokeswoman Ilse Van de Keere said that around 400 protesters were gathered in the area.
About 100 were detained, many for carrying dangerous objects like fireworks or clothing that could be used as protection in clashes with police.
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 and destructive 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.