Thousands of protesters rallied in Brussels yesterday to vent their anger at the austerity measures and press EU leaders gathered for a summit to focus on investing in jobs.
Organisers said 15,000 people took part in the rally in the Cinquantenaire park a short walk from the European Union headquarters, where the bloc’s 27 leaders were to meet.
Factory workers, teachers, students and union activists from Belgium, Britain, France, Germany and other EU countries chanted “Revolution!” and waved placards reading “No to Austerity!”
“We don’t want the austerity measures they are forcing on the people of Europe. What we need are measures to get people back to work,” said protester Adam Baudoin, an activist with Belgium’s CSC union wearing a green hardhat.
Protesters urged the gathered leaders to end the cutbacks in government spending, to boost investments to create jobs and to make banks and corporations pay more to help end Europe’s economic crisis.
“Why should the people be paying for the crisis the banks created?” asked Danish protester Mads Hadberg, a 25-year-old student. “People are losing jobs, health benefits, pensions — and the rich are getting richer.”
Among the protesters were some 3,000 workers for US heavy machinery firm Caterpillar, which recently announced plans to slash 1,400 Belgian jobs, and several hundred from ArcelorMittal steel plants in Belgium and France that have suffered job cuts.
The rally, organised by the 85-member European Trade Union Confederation, took place without incident as protesters were kept away from the summit site by tight security.
Speakers rallied the crowd from a stage, leading chants of “All Together!” and “Solidarity!”