Belgian police and ‘yellow jacket’ protesters clash in Brussels

Police and hundreds of so-called “yellow jackets” protesting against high taxes and living costs have clashed in Brussels as the movement that started in France two weeks ago gained traction in Belgium.

Police trucks fired tear gas and water cannons on protesters who tried to approach government buildings and offices in central Brussels and began throwing rocks and paving stones at the barricades.

A demonstrator gets hit by a water cannon. Credit: Francisco Seco/AP

“Our officers started to use water cannons after they began throwing objects. They were throwing pool balls,” Brussels city police spokeswoman Ilse Van De Keere said.

A police cordon charged protesters after they attacked two police vehicles, overturning one and setting both alight.

Ms Van De Keere estimated that more than 300 people were involved.

Around 60 people were arrested for disturbing public order.

A demonstrator throws a rubbish bag. Credit: Virginia Mayo/AP

Many were carrying objects that police considered to be dangerous, including razor blades, tyre levers and pepper spray, she said.

Some were detained for having gas, ski and diving masks, which police saw as a sign that the protesters were expecting tear gas to be used.

In a tweet, interior minister Jan Jambon lamented what he described as “incomprehensible violence towards the police, which does its best to protect citizens and society. Scandalous”.

Earlier, dozens of protesters wearing the high-visibility vests that have become a uniform for the movement blocked city streets with pieces of scaffolding or by gathering on roads, causing traffic chaos along major city routes.

Demonstrators are protesting against high taxes and living costs. Credit: Francisco Seco/AP

Some handed out vests to bystanders and people stuck in cars.

Prime Minister Charles Michel has said he is willing to talk with some of their leaders.

Protest roadblocks were also in place near the city of Charleroi, some 60 kilometres (38 miles) south of Brussels.