Union protest against unemployment turns violent in Brussels

BRUSSELS Fri Apr 4, 2014 10:24am EDT

1 of 3. A demonstrator throws garbage towards riot police officers during a European trade unions protest against austerity measures, in central Brussels April 4, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

Related Topics

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Protesters from across Europe clashed with police in Brussels on Friday at a demonstration against high unemployment, throwing stones and smashing windows as they marched from the city center to the European Union district.

The protest was called by trade unions to draw attention to youth unemployment and competition from low-wage countries before a European Parliament election at the end of May.

Union officials said some 40,000 people joined the march. Police put the figure at 25,550.

Police said the protest had been mostly peaceful, but groups had thrown stones and barricades at police near the European Parliament and later near the European Commission headquarters. Two protesters and one police officer were injured.

The U.S. permanent representation to the EU was put on security "lock down" as the protest march passed in front of the vast, tightly guarded compound. Some marchers threw rocks at the building and set off fire crackers.

Brussels hosts regular demonstrations, most passing off peacefully.

Bernadette Segol, general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, said that economic policies had not worked so far, and the unemployment rate was unacceptable.

"Politicians have to consider that this is the key issue for the future. We are asking to stop the austerity and start a big investment program for sustainable growth and quality jobs," she said.

EU unemployment in February was 10.6 percent and, for those under 25 years, 22.9 percent. In Greece and Spain, the jobless rate is more than a quarter and youth unemployment above 50 percent.

The Brussels regional government and police had warned drivers to stay clear of the center on Friday. Public transport was also hit.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, James Francis and Luke Baker; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

FILED UNDER: