Some 250 activists of the radical climate movement Extinction Rebellion (XR) were arrested after gathering near the Rue de la Loi in Brussels around noon on Saturday to denounce Belgium's lack of climate ambition.
The police arrested almost all activists on the scene, some 250 in total, the Brussels police told XR, the organisation announced in a press release on Saturday afternoon.
According to XR, a "sizeable police force" was monitoring the train and metro stations, as well as streets around the Rue de la Loi, and carried out checks on buses. "Unlike in other countries, you can arrest activists preventively even before they carry out their action in Belgium," the press release stated.
Around noon on Saturday, the movement blocked traffic on the busy Rue de la Loi to hold an "open public meeting," to stress the importance of listening to the people when finding a good way to tackle the climate crisis.
"After years of demonstrations, petitions and climate strikes by young people, now is the time for anger," said XR spokesperson Marjolein Moreaux in a press release. "The floods in Wallonia and the latest IPCC report make it clear that the ecological crisis is unavoidable."
"More and more international politicians give the impression of recognising the urgency when you hear them speak today," she said. "Yet, there is a huge gap between their words and their deeds. Too often, they are doing the opposite of what they should be doing to keep our planet habitable."
Saturday's action takes place within the framework of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, where, until 12 November, leaders of some 200 countries will be looking for ways to reduce the global emission of greenhouse gases.
According to the European Environmental Agency (EEA), however, Belgium is at the bottom of the European ladder when it comes to climate objectives.
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However, not only does XR believe that the politicians are doing too little, but many of their measures make the situation worse. With the non-violent occupation action, called Time4Rage, Extinction Rebellion wants to send make it clear to the Belgian politicians in Glasgow that they have had enough.
"For decades, individual citizens were talked into adapting their individual lifestyles, but you can only get rid of your car when there is good and affordable public transport," said Moreaux.
Not everyone has enough money to insulate their house or buy organic food, she stressed, denouncing the long-awaited and already heavily-criticised climate agreement that Flanders reached on Thursday evening.
"The moralising emphasis on individual responsibility has always been a distraction. The ecological crisis is the result of the huge conflict of interests between political and economic elites," Moreaux added.
The ecological crisis is also a crisis of democracy, stressed XR, adding that the current leaders should listen to those who elected them, instead of lobbyists of big companies.
"Belgian politicians are literally throwing oil on the fire with our tax money," she said. "We demand the creation of a sovereign Citizens' Assembly, in which elected citizens themselves can formulate the necessary measures for a socially just ecological transition."
In the meantime, the Brussels police - which initially advised commuters to avoid the area around Schuman and the Rue de la Loi in the direction of the centre - announced that the road is cleared, and that traffic can resume again.
? Réouverture de la circulation - Het verkeer gaat weer open ? https://t.co/eb1M1f0mWz
— PolBru (@zpz_polbru) November 6, 2021
Update: This article was updated following an Extinction Rebellion press release confirming that some 250 activists were arrested.