Brussels and EU on high alert for arrival of 'freedom convoy'

Brussels and EU on high alert for arrival of 'freedom convoy'
'Freedom convoy' supporters gathering in France before a planned departure to Belgium. Credit: Belga

The Brussels police and EU leaders are on high alert Monday with reports of some 1,300 vehicles on the move in defiance of a ban on the self-proclaimed "freedom convoy" that hit Paris, Lille and The Hague at the weekend.

Police were stationed at key entries to the city, announcing early the closure of the E40 motorway from Leuven in the direction of Reyers-Brussels from Sint-Stevens-Woluwe and is monitoring campers already set up in a designated holding zone for a "static" protest at Heysel on the Brussels Expo site.

"We advise everyone to avoid Brussels and the access roads to Brussels by car," the police said on Twitter on Monday morning.

A series of checkpoints were set up after the city brought in an emergency, 48-hour anti-demonstration regulation.

European Union leaders also put pressure on local security forces after the headquarters of the European External Action Service (EEAS) was the focal point for demonstrators and suffered damage during clashes with police last month.

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"The EEAS is in touch with the Belgian authorities on the follow up to this incident and to ensure it will not be repeated," a spokesperson told The Brussels Times.

Affecting other cities

The ban issued by Brussels Minister-President Rudi Vervoort and City of Brussels Mayor Philippe Close took effect at midnight on Saturday and will continue at least until 08:00 on Tuesday.

A similar ban was imposed in Ghent in previous days as there were indications that there would be "rehearsals" in Ghent as early as Saturday.

The Dutch parliament was blocked on Saturday by protesting truckers, while Paris police fired tear gas after traffic was congested in the French capital on Sunday.

Demonstrations against measures imposed to limit the spread of the pandemic have continued to mount despite a softening of the restrictions as the impact on public health has tapered off. Belgium last week announced an easing of some of its measures as of Friday 18 February.

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