Riot police armed with shields and batons charged hundreds of protesting fishermen outside European Union headquarters Wednesday after a demonstration over high fuel prices turned violent.
Protesters hurled flares, firecrackers and rocks at police beyond razor-wire barricades. They also fired flare guns at the EU headquarters building. As they retreated down the main boulevard through Brussels' European Union district, protesters broke into EU buildings, smashing windows and dragging out flags and other items to burn in the street.
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Fishermen, truck drivers and farmers across Europe have protested in recent weeks to demand government aid to help compensate for high fuel costs, which they say are threatening their livelihoods.
In France on Wednesday, truckers and taxi drivers staged so-called “snail” protests in which they drove slowly to hold up traffic to express their anger at high gasoline and diesel prices.
Farmers left oil cans and other petroleum products in front of regional government offices in several cities in southern France.
Protesters blocked deliveries to and from an oil depot in Cusset in eastern France, and blocked a river port in the major city of Lyon.
French government officials were to meet with transport unions to try to avert a nationwide strike.
Meanwhile, the CEO of France's Total SA told French lawmakers in Paris that oil prices were expected to stay high a long time and said consumers should get used to it.
Europeans face higher fuel prices than elsewhere because of excise taxes that are added to national sales taxes. EU leaders have put the problem on top of their June 19-20 summit agenda.