Rioters caused great damage last night in the Belgian city of Charleroi. In various places, for example, they tried to set fire with Molotov cocktails. The palace of justice and a series of bank branches and shops had to pay for it. According to the police, the same scenario occurred as in the two previous nights. Late in the evening after a protest of the so-called yellow vests at high fuel prices on the Jules Hiernaux Square, around the Marsupilami statue, more than a hundred rioters in small groups sought the confrontation with the police. In addition, they were destroying and plundering nearby.
A police spokesman spoke of a city guerrilla and some media show images of ‘war scenes’ in Charleroi. More than twenty arrests have been made. An estimated half a million people live in and around the old industrial town in Hainaut.
The police were ready to intervene. There were four platoons present, two water cannons and an armored vehicle. The police stormed the group of rioters around 9.30 pm, after a few barricades had set fire to the roundabout. The crowd was dispersed with a water cannon.
Some men pried loose paving stones to launch them as projectiles. At the police itself there is material damage to vehicles and physical damage. Some photos that Het Laatste Nieuws received from good sources illustrate how much the situation got out of hand. The fact that the officers were severely affected can be seen in the state of their equipment after the intervention. One helmet has a visor torn through the middle, another helmet seems to show the damage of a heavy blow or a thrown object, as can be seen in the photos. The police say they are using more agents to curb the riots.
No riots tonight
The local police of Charleroi used extra agents last night to keep the peace. “It is clear that there is no third night with riots in Charleroi, that’s a certainty”, spokesman David Quinaux promised to RTL.
“We used our staff wisely. We will suppress and spread all armed groups across the city. Whoever shows violent behavior will also have to deal with us. The order will take place tonight in Charleroi.”
The dissatisfaction in Wallonia is now deep. Campaigners say that they have seen their well-paid jobs smoke in the clean-up of the steel industry, buses and trains have disappeared from their region, and in the meantime the bills are rising further. Almost everyone has debts. The young people from Courcelles want to leave. “But I can not afford a move. I am stuck here” – The Flemish newspaper De Standaard summarized the desperation yesterday.
Many campaigners are not only angry at the government in Brussels but also at parts of the Flemish media that would not take the problems of the French speakers seriously enough. The protest of the French ‘yellow vests’ in that atmosphere had little trouble crossing the border. The same problems that plague a number of ‘forgotten’ French regions are squatting here. It is the Walloon version of the frustrated citizens in the middle of America who voted for Donald Trump. Also around Courcelles and Charleroi the residents feel disadvantaged because of the rising fuel prices, the increased taxes in general and a large loss of purchasing power on a daily basis in their wallets. They also see their region collapse, they say. Villages where once were eight butcher shops now have only one and even that is almost bankrupt. Especially young people feel locked up in the misery, it sounds on the street.
The demonstrators are threatening with more actions. “We are still working on the document that we want to circulate in the region,” said spokesman Marc-Henri Jamain. “We also plan other actions in Namur and the surrounding area in the near future, but we do not want to give up on that at the moment”.