Fires and a toppled statue: Farmers clash with police by EU Parliament

Fires and a toppled statue: Farmers clash with police by EU Parliament

Protesting farmers blocked Brussels’ streets with tractors, started bonfires, and knocked over a statue in front of the European Parliament on Thursday. In response, police fired water at them.

Farmers from Belgium, Italy, and Spain gathered at Place du Luxembourg to demonstrate against their economic plight, which they claim is being made worse by ever-tougher environmental regulations imposed by Brussels, while EU leaders of state convened nearby in the capital.

The usually calm square was engulfed in clouds of black smoke as farmers moved one of the five statues off the plinth supporting the main statue of British industrialist John Cockerill from the 19th century.

Farmers with muddy faces and filthy boots threw insults at armed police who had set up a barbed-wire barrier in front of the Parliament to the deafening sound of explosions and tractor horns. Police shot a shaky water hose at the farmers nearby as they steadily added to a large bonfire, several of which burned across the square.

The boisterous assembly came after weeks of demonstrations by farmers throughout Europe, who claim that the EU is burdening them with environmental red tape while they battle declining profits, exorbitant expenses, and competition from low-cost imports. Farmers in France confiscated and disposed of Spanish produce outside of the European capital, while they also blocked roads in Italy and Greece.

The head of the statue, which was slowly roasting in one of the bonfires, was pushed over by “some French” and “Irish” farmers, according to a Flemish farmer who would not reveal his identity. The grass in the square had been turned into a muddy mulch, and the streets were blanketed in straw.

Italians from the Coldiretti farmers’ lobby chanted, “This is not the Europe we want,” and responded with a song that said, “No farmers! Nothing to eat!”

“We see you, we hear you,” was the message that Roberta Metsola, the president of the European Parliament, sent to the farmers during the European Council meeting. Vote in the June European Parliament elections if you want your voice to be heard, the speaker advised.

Before the election, the Maltese lawmaker contended that the farmers’ protests demonstrate the need for “us to listen more” to certain segments of society.

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