Thousands rally against austerity at EU summit

Thousands of protesters rallied in Brussels on Thursday to vent their anger at 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 European Union headquarters, where the bloc's 27 leaders were to meet for talks.

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. That's how we move forward," said protester Adam Baudoin, an activist with Belgium's CSC union wearing a green hardhat.

Protesters urged the gathered leaders to end 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!"

"We are here to warn the European Council (of governments). At every summit it is the workers who are put in danger," Anne Demelenne, the head of Belgium's FGTB union federation, told the crowd.

Protester Raf De Weerdt, a Brussels teacher, said EU leaders needed to stop listening "to a bunch of economists all saying the same thing" and to start listening to voters.

"This crisis wasn't caused by the workers, but we are the ones who are being punished," he said. "Those who caused the crisis should be paying the price."