Anti-austerity protests in Brussels | Photo: HART BOVEN HARD
Tens of thousands demonstrated in the streets of Brussels Sunday to protest against austerity measures introduced by the new Belgian government. Officials estimated the crowds at 20,000, while march organizers claimed that up to 120,000 people participated in the rally, one day before Belgian labor unions called for a series of strikes. Marchers came from across the country, chanting slogans like, “Yes, there is an alternative to government savings.”
They also called for a fair tax system and a better distribution of government spending. The rally was organized by the social NGO “Hart boven Hard” (Heart Over Hard) and according to local press about 7,000 demonstrators are expected in Brussels Monday for the strikes, which are expected to disrupt public transportation. Belgium’s centre-right government of Prime Minister Charles Michel says the tough austerity measures are necessary to keep the budget deficit down.
Last year, thousands of workers staged protests over the same issue as Michel announced plans to raise the pension age, freeze wages and make public service cuts. Several European countries are struggling with the financial crisis that erupted in 2008, spiking poverty and leaving millions unemployed in the region. Earlier this month, protests erupted in Frankfurt against the austerity measures pushed by European banks and financial institutions.