Brussels 'Indignants' vow to maintain pressure
Leading "Indignants" vowed Saturday to pressure EU leaders for another week, as a giant march ground Brussels to a halt after a months-long walk that inspired the "Occupy Wall Street" protests.
Police said marchers aligned to the twin anti-capitalist movements, swelled by demonstrators from Belgium, England, France, the Netherlands and even the United States, numbered at least 6,000 -- twice that anticipated.
Unlike in Rome or London, though, no significant unrest had been witnessed or reported by 6:30 pm (1630 GMT).
Protesters targeted their ire at governments and banks, groups sporadically kicking out at branches of Dexia bank along their route, although without causing material damage.
The larger part of the lender -- much bigger than the entire Greek banking system -- is now being nationalised by Belgium in its second bailout of the last three years.
The Brussels rally, which came on the day a local police officer went before a magistrate for assaulting a female Greek "Indignant" earlier in the week, was to give way to an alternative park 'assembly' after sunset near the European Union headquarters.
"We are the 99 percent," protesters cried, echoing the motif of the Madrid-based movement for an alternative to capitalist democracy.
Belgian police changed the marchers' route at the last minute, to ensure no close contact with the main EU buildings.
Sofia Novo, a 23-year-old Spaniard who said she joined the walk in Paris after giving up her studies, said her group would stay on another week to protest at a delayed summit of EU leaders.
"What's happening on Wall Street wouldn't have been possible without what started in Madrid," she said as the crowd set off from a mainline railway station downtown.
"But Madrid was a reaction to the decisions that are taken here -- and that are going to get worse come next week's summit for the 99 percent of people who feel they have no other voice," she added.
Baseball-capped Jackson, a 62-year-old man of Sudanese origin, said he flew over from Washington to show his solidarity with hundreds of youths whose foot pilgrimage has startled seasoned camapaigning veterans.
"I'm meeting people here from all backgrounds, but they all tell the same story," said the grandfather-of-four.
"We're fed up with the governments and the banks and their never-ending cosy deals," he underlined.
After a mostly trouble-free week camped in a different Brussels park, police adopted a stand-back approach, partly in a nod to a row earlier in the week.
Just before the marchers set off at around 1230 GMT, city prosecutors said they had released from custody an officer who admitted kicking a female Greek protester while the young girl was handcuffed and seated in the street.
The officer, who remains suspended, was formally charged with assault after admitting the attack and expressing his regret, according to Belga news agency.
In Rome, clashes broke out at a protest attended by tens of thousands, with one group setting fire to a government office and riot police firing tear gas and water.
© 2011 AFP