Spotlight on police following claims of heavy-handed action against climate activists
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    Spotlight on police following claims of heavy-handed action against climate activists

    © Belga

    Extinction Rebellion has already collected over 30 testimonies of harassment and possible abuse by Brussels-Ixelles police against participants in Saturday’s civil disobedience in reaction to the global climate emergency, the movement said on Tuesday.

    “Should these statements prove correct, these acts are naturally unacceptable,” Ilse Van de Keere, spokesperson of the police zone, commented.

    The police intervention has been the target of much criticism, with detractors accusing the law enforcers of undue force against non-violent demonstrators, especially the use of water hoses against demonstrators. Some actions by the police have also been decried as unnecessary, especially after the media showed footage of demonstrators being teargassed while lying motionless on the ground. “People have been marked, even perplexed, by what happened,” said Extinction spokesperson Linde Polfliet. “The general feeling is that they didn’t expect that to be possible in Belgium.”

    The police have already announced the launch of an investigation to assess the police action.

    Extinction is considering filing a collective complaint based on the testimonies it has collected, but that has not yet been decided. “For the moment, all our energy is focussed on providing the victims with physical, psychological and also legal support,” another spokesman of the movement, Pieter Geens, explained. “First, we’re taking care of people who have suffered, then we’ll see if we decide to file a complaint. That’s not the most important thing for us.”

    The activists plan to mobilise on Monday at the next meeting of the Brussels city council. In the meantime, Mayor Philippe Close has proposed to meet with them to see how they can best organise any further actions. “We’re always ready for dialogue,” said Linde Polfliet.

    Oscar Schneider

    The Brussels Times