‘TTIP is death:’ Over 100 arrested in Brussels at US-EU trade deal protest (VIDEO)
Roads were paralyzed in the Belgian capital as a force of more than 600 activists descended on EU headquarters, blocking traffic and the venue of the EU leaders summit in protest against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
People carried signs and chanted slogans such as “Stop TTIP, stop austerity” and "Sorry for the inconvenience. We're trying to save the world," at the march in Brussels on Thursday. "TTIP is death" another sign read. One group of protesters displayed a balloon ‘Trojan Horse’ as an allegory for the deal.
After listening to concerts and speeches in the cold rain, they were scattered in groups around the Commission's buildings, the Parliament and the European Council, where EU lawmakers were meeting to discuss the migration crisis in Europe. A group of 150 demonstrators approached police barracks blocking the traffic along the way.
To stop the crowd from disturbing the work of the politicians, the security forces carried out 105 arrests. Thirty Spaniards were among those detained. The activists were later released.
"The aim was to prevent the blocking of the entry of European leaders at the summit," Brussels police spokesman Christian De Coninck was quoted by the RTL news outlet as saying.
Organized by Alliance D19-20, which is composed of farmers, CSC and FGTB trade unionists and representatives of over 60 organizations from the voluntary sector, the protesters were joined by some 120 members of the "Euro-market" parties of Spain, France, Italy and Greece who wanted to voice their concerns.
“The European Commission’s objective is to ratify the CETA (free trade agreement with Canada) and conclude the negotiations on the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) by the end of the year. The opposition of the peoples of Europe to these treaties has never been stronger, in a true democracy, against the destruction of our rights by austerity and free-trade agreements!,” the Alliance stated.
The next, 11th round of round of TTIP negotiations are scheduled for next week in Miami, Florida, where delegations are set to discuss market access mechanisms. The 12th round of bargaining is likely to take place at the end of January or the beginning of February, with an aim at settling a full treaty before US President Barack Obama leaves office.
TTIP is aimed at creating the largest free trade zone in the world by reducing barriers to trade between the US and the European Union (EU). The agreement, which is now being negotiated in secrecy, would affect a number of areas including banking regulations, food standards and environmental laws.
Protesters argue that that the agreement will lower standards across the EU in a range of areas and will lead to harm social, consumer and environmental standards. The activists are taking an especially harsh stance on GM crops as the deal could allow for US companies to bypass EU regulations and sell GM products in Europe.
A weekend anti-TTIP protest in Berlin saw hundreds of thousands take to the streets. Organized by trade unions, environmental groups, charities and opposition parties, the rally went from the main railway station in central Berlin to the national parliament. According to activists, 250,000 people turned up for the event, while Berlin police claimed that the number was closer to their initial expectation of 150,000.