Police hit with manure and eggs as tyres burn and hundreds of tractors cause gridlock in latest farmers’ protest


Farmers in Brussels have sprayed police with manure and pelted them with bottles and eggs to protest what they say is the increasing unsustainability of their jobs.

Tyres were set alight, and roads blocked with tractors, “causing gridlock in the city centre”, in demonstrations timed to coincide with a nearby meeting of EU agriculture ministers to discuss their concerns.

Monday’s clashes are the latest in a series of rallies and demonstrations by farmers across Europe.

Brussels police said that 900 tractors had entered the city, many heading for the European Council building where the ministers were gathered.

Officers in riot gear, some behind concrete barriers and barbed wire, fired water cannons and tear gas at protesters as they defended the EU’s headquarters.

Protesters in turn set off noisy fireworks, filling the air with smoke.

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Sky’s Adam Parsons reports from the Belgian capital

The farmers are angry at what they say is the slow death of working the land, killed off by red tape and competition from cheap imports made in countries that don’t have the EU’s relatively high standards.

More on Belgium

They lined up scores of tractors down main roads leading to the city’s European quarter, stopping traffic and blocking public transport.

A few tractors forced their way through one barrier, sending panicked officers running.

Police officers stand guard. Pic: Reuters

Marieke Van De Vivere, a farmer from northern Belgium, said: “We are getting ignored.”

Another said simply: “Agriculture. As a child you dream of it, as an adult you die of it.”

Protesters threw eggs at police. Pic: AP

Sky correspondent Adam Parsons, in the Belgian capital, pointed to the front line of what he called “quite violently-minded protesters who’ve been locked in running street battles with police”.

Police operating a nearby water cannon had, he said, shot “hundreds and hundreds of gallons of water in their [protesters’] direction.”

A protester runs from a water cannon. Pic: Reuters

He said he saw protesters throwing eggs, and dozens of fireworks, at officers, while their tractors had “brought gridlock to the centre of Brussels.

“Farmers say their jobs are becoming unsustainable, costs are going up, but the prices they receive are staying the same, and they can’t deal with cheap imports from places like Ukraine or trade agreements.

Pic: AP

“The price of diesel is going up and governments across Europe are doing nothing to help.”

Their anger “has spilled over into peaceful, but noisy, protests,” he said.

Read more:
Firecrackers and smoke at a farmers’ protest
French farmers block roads
UK farming ‘on its knees,’ farmers say

Police fire tear gas at protesters. Pic: AP

Farmers from across Spain blew whistles, rang cowbells and beat drums and in Poland, farmers blocked the road at a border crossing with Germany.

France, Spain, the Netherlands and Bulgaria have been hit by protests in recent weeks as political parties campaign for Europe-wide elections in June.

It has already had results. Earlier this month, the EU’s executive branch shelved an anti-pesticide proposal in a concession to the farmers, who make up an important voting constituency.