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Thousands attend labour protests in Belgium

Minor clashes with riot police reported, as at least 25,000 protest new EU austerity measures and 'social dumping'.

Last updated: 04 Apr 2014 20:37
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Belgian police used water cannons and pepper spray on the protesters [Reuters]

Thousands in Belgium have taken part in a peaceful protest, called for by the European Trade Union Confederation and organised by labour unions, to oppose austerity measures implemented across the 28-country European Union.

Belgian police used water cannons and pepper spray on the protesters, who had showered them with oranges and cobblestones during Friday's demonstration in Brussels, according to the Associated Press news agency.

Participants also voiced their opposition to 'social dumping', whereby businesses import cheaper workers to replace local hires, or export jobs to a low-wage country or area.

As well as paralysing traffic in the Belgian capital, the demonstration sent the US embassy into lockdown as the American ambassador to the EU, Anthony L Gardner, was conducting an unrelated briefing for journalists.

Embassy staff said it was the first lockdown they could recall in years.

At one of the protest hot spots, near the European Union headquarter's buildings, longshoremen from the Belgian cities of Antwerp and Ghent clashed with riot police.

Police said one demonstrator was hurt when a rock he was trying to throw hit him on the head instead.

Several people had been injured, including a policeman apparently struck by a cobblestone, AP reported.

Organisers had expected 40,000 people to take part in the demonstration, but Brussels police spokeswoman Ilse Van de Keere estimated the turnout at about 25,000.

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