World Partiers protest Belgium's virus rules medics demand support
Fugitive Belgian extremist soldier evades massive manhunt
BRUSSELS (AP) — Hundreds of specialized forces kept looking in vain Friday for a heavily armed Belgian soldier who is on a federal anti-terror watch list and was seen early this week near the home of a person he had threatened. Jurgen Conings, 46, an expert marksman known for his extreme-right sympathies, was still thought to be hiding in a vast nature park in northeastern Belgium that over 400 soldiers and police officials have combed for three straight days. © Provided by Associated Press Belgian military sit in a tank at the entrance of the National Park Hoge Kempen in Maasmechelen, Belgium, Friday, May 21, 2021.
BRUSSELS (AP) — Thousands of protesters angry at pandemic-related restrictions marched to European Union headquarters in Brussels on Saturday and had minor tussles with police over their unauthorized gathering.
The crowd initially assembled in a Brussels park for a party designed to flout Belgium’s COVID-19 rules and a related gathering calling for Europeans to claim back their freedom. Participants then marched to the district of the Belgian capital that houses key EU buildings.
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Sixty years after Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba was assassinated and dissolved in acid, former colonial power Belgium is to restore his last remains -- a single tooth -- to his family. The handover ceremony will launch a period of official mourning, during which both countries will look back on their troubled past and the Democratic Republic of Congo will lay to rest a national hero. In an interview with AFP in Brussels, Francois and Roland Lumumba, 69 and 63, explained how they had travelled to make arrangements and fix dates for the events in the Belgian capital to commemorate their father.
Police officers blocked them and had dispersed the marchers by early evening after minor scuffles.
Similar anti-lockdown parties in recent weeks in the La Cambre woods drew thousands of people and led to clashes with police who used tear gas and water cannons to disperse rowdy crowds, resulting in numerous arrests and injuries.
Belgium was especially hard-hit by the virus, and while hospitalization and death rates are improving as vaccinations rise, the country still has strict rules banning most gatherings and requiring facemasks in large crowds.
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Earlier Saturday, about 1,000 health care workers demonstrated at an authorized protest in Brussels to demand more financial support and hospital staff after a coronavirus-dominated year.
“We are tired because the COVID crisis led to more working hours in hospitals, less hours to rest. A lot of time off has been canceled to take care of patients," aid Justine Lombard, a doctor’s assistant who took part in Saturday’s rally. "That was normal, and everybody was happy to do it because it is our job, this is what we signed on for, but people have to realize that this situation cannot last any longer.”
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