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Brussels mayor blames dockers, right-wingers for riots

The mayor of Brussels blamed dockers, hooligans and far-right militants on Friday for violent clashes with police during mass protests against Belgium’s new government.

Nearly 150 people were injured in the unrest on Thursday, which erupted at the end of an otherwise peaceful march by 100,000 people through the Belgian capital.

“We know who they are.

Of course there were dockers from Antwerp, or at least people who wore big ‘Port of Antwerp’ jackets,” Mayor Yvan Mayeur said Friday on public television RTBF.

“And there were hooligans, troublemakers, people from the extreme-right probably.

Their goal was to smash Brussels,” he said, adding he would take legal action against the perpetrators.

The march was against the austerity policies of Belgium’s new centre-right government led by Prime Minister Charles Michel.

A group that broke away from the protesters, many of them wearing docker jackets from Antwerp and other Belgian ports, hurled fireworks, paving stones and glass bottles at police who fired back with tear gas and water cannon, AFP journalists said.

The troublemakers set fire to 11 vehicles and damaged 60 others, the authorities said, adding around 100 policemen and 43 people were injured.