The so-called March against Marrakesh, planned to take place in Brussels on Sunday, can go ahead despite a ban by the Brussels region, the Council of State has ruled. The march is a demonstration organised by a number of right-wing groups and other opponents of the United Nations migration pact, whose support by the federal government led to the departure of N-VA from the government coalition earlier this month.
Brussels minister-president Rudi Vervoort took the decision to ban the march on public order grounds: some of the groups taking part, which include football hooligans and Flemish extremists Schild en Vriend, had called on their Facebook pages for violence against counter-demonstrators who have vowed to protest the march. Brussels-City mayor Philippe Close, the authority over the police of the zone concerned, also issued a ban.
The organisers, however, first said they would march regardless of the ban, then took Vervoort’s decision to the Council of State for an emergency ruling. The Council of State scrutinises the decisions of all levels of government, from municipal authorities to the federal government.
On Friday evening, the Council handed down its ruling: the demonstration can go ahead despite Vervoort’s ban. “The restriction on the freedom to demonstrate, is not, at first sight, sufficiently grounded,” the Council said.
However despite the name suggesting the demonstration will take the form of a march, the Council’s ruling rests on the organisers’ own description of the event as a “static protest” on the Rond-Point Schuman in the European quarter. Since the legal ruling overturns the ban on a static protest, it can be supposed that the ruling would no longer apply should the protesters move off from the square to move elsewhere in procession.
In the meantime, a variety of anti-marchers groups have called on citizens to take in refugees for the day to ensure their safety while the demonstration goes on. Opponents of the march – supporters of the UN pact – intend to hold a counter-demonstration of their own.
Vervoort and Close issued a joint statement: The police, they said, would take all measures necessary to maintain order on the territory of Brussels. And they called on the marchers themselves to remain calm, warning them that no departure from the rules of peaceful demonstration would be tolerated.