Police used tear gas and water cannon on football fans in central Brussels on Sunday as violence erupted the day after Belgium lost 2-0 to Morocco in the FIFA World Cup.
Riot police were deployed to a Christmas market in the city center of the Belgian capital, and police ordered the close some public transport lines. Fires were started and rocks were thrown at vehicles. A group of young Moroccan fans destroyed a rental car and scooters, according to pictures from a BBC reporter on site.
Around 100 police were dispatched to the football fans who destroyed street furniture and threw projectiles at law enforcement, according to reports. At least one vehicle was set on fire.
“Dozens of people, some of whom were wearing hoodies, sought to clash with the police, which compromised public safety,” Brussels police said, according to Le Soir. At least 10 people were arrested, the newspaper reported.
Morocco’s win came as a major upset at the World Cup tournament and was celebrated exuberantly by fans of Moroccan immigrant background.
Rajae Maouane, a Moroccan-born Belgian politician who is co-chairman of the French-speaking Ecolo party, condemned the violence. “There is no excuse for the violent behavior of these ‘supporters’,” she said. tweeted. “True fans celebrate with joy and respect.”
Rudi Vervoort, socialist minister-president of the government of the Brussels-Capital Region, wrote on Twitter“Nothing justifies the vandalism of these hooligans who put real fans to shame. The police are doing everything they can to maintain public order.
The majority of celebrations held in Brussels by the city’s large Moroccan community have been peaceful, others took care to point it out. The Moroccan diaspora in Belgium numbers around half a million people.
Unrest also took place in the Belgian cities of Antwerp and Liège, the Associated Press reported.
Philippe Close, the socialist mayor of the city of Brussels, also condemned the violence, and informed football fans not to come downtown. The Brussels police have advised people not to move on the Boulevard du Midi and the adjacent streets.
“Violence is inappropriate in such circumstances,” said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. “Football should be a party,” he added.
“Sad to see how a few individuals abuse a situation to go wild,” Belgian Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden said.
Flemish far-right party Vlaams Belang grasped on altercations to advance his nationalist, anti-immigration and anti-Islam agenda. Party Chairman Tom Van Grieken said Belgians of Moroccan origin are “free to leave” the country.
Dutch police said violence broke out in Rotterdam, with riot officers trying to break up a group of 500 football fans who pelted police with fireworks and glass, the AP reported. Unrest was also reported in Amsterdam and The Hague.