Organisers and participants in the feminist “Reclaim the Night” demonstration who were arrested on Saturday night by Brussels police said on Monday they had been treated violently and brutally. This was to have been the fifth “Reclaim the Night” protest, but a previous edition, in 2017, had been marred by incidents with the police. The demonstration was therefore not authorized on Saturday evening. The protesters nevertheless assembled, but were confined to a street in the rue Sainte-Catherine.
“We feel we should have a right to take over the street without having to negotiate”, the protesters said in a text published on the Internet. “We feel we have the right to be present in large numbers in the street. Our freedom is not to be negotiated; it is to be enforced.”
“Around 8.30 p.m., after marching for ten minutes from Sainte-Catherine Square, a sizeable police detail blocked the road then surrounded us”, the demonstrators said. “Our procession, made up of about 100 persons, found itself squeezed between lines of Robocops armed with their shields, helmets and clubs and the road, which was blocked on all sides with many police lorries, trucks and cars.
“All this time, Heras [crowd control] barriers covered with canvas were placed all around us to make us invisible to the crowds massed in the surrounding areas and to all support. As soon as they were shielded from view, the cops began to pull people out one by one in a very brutal manner, throwing them to the ground, pulling them by the hair, searching, cuffing them and taking them away. Some people who went to support us were also roughed up.”
The demonstrators added that they were also beaten at the Etterbeek barracks where they were taken. “We were placed in cells where ‘assigned women’ were separated from ‘assigned men’”, the protesters added, describing this as “humiliating transphobic violence”. They also said they were subjected to “insults, sexist, homophobic and transphobic jokes”.
“The police use falsely polite language with us beforehand, telling us they simply wish to co-organise the event with us”, the organisers said. “We find it extremely paradoxical to ask a patriarchal state to be able to demonstrate against it, so we refuse to negotiate with the repressive militia of that same state.”
The Brussels Times