Authorities Respond to Lockdown Protest with 300 Preventative Arrests

Illustration picture shows an unauthorized protest demonstration against the curfew organized by the association 'Vecht voor je recht', in front of the Brussels Central Station, in the city center of Brussels, Sunday 31 January 2021. The event is organized by the association Vecht voor je recht (Fight for your rights), …

Belgian police arrested more than 300 people in Brussels before two banned demonstrations against coronavirus lockdown measures were due to take place.

Police made the arrests outside the Gare du Nord and Gare du Midi railway stations on Sunday before protesters could take part in the demonstrations, with many of those detained reportedly football supporters.

According to a report from newspaper Le Soir, the police surrounded the train stations and arrested many of the football supporters as soon as they got off their trains.

In total, at least 400 people were arrested, either before or during the planned demos, and police said that all of those involved were subject to identification checks.

Brussels was not the only European capital to see anti-lockdown protests over the weekend. In Vienna, around 10,000 took to the streets, with an estimated 5,000 people gathering in a square in the centre of the city near the Hofburg Palace.

According to Austrian broadcaster ORF, four police officers were injured during the protests and 11 people were arrested as demonstrators clashed with riot police.

Vienna’s police chief Gerhard Pürstl called the police operation “challenging” but praised officers for avoiding an escalation of tensions and stopping rioting.

The clashes came just days after the Austrian government had banned 15 of the 17 demonstrations planned for the weekend, including a large demonstration in which former Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl, a member of the populist Freedom Party, was set to speak.

Members of the Freedom Party criticised banning the protests, including its Vienna leader Dominik Nepp who said: “This is an interference with fundamental rights and the foundations of our democracy.”

While Mr Kickl said: “The government and especially Interior Minister Karl Nehammer do not shy away from banning any criticism of the government.”

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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