Belgium in Brief: Police in Focus

Belgium in Brief: Police in Focus
Credit: Belga/Jonathan del Valle/Twitter

In the aftermath of the demonstration against racism and police violence that took place in Brussels on Sunday, several allegations of the police using excessive force against protesters have emerged.

Photos of an arrest in Brussels show an officer kneeling on top of an unidentified teen for minutes, with witnesses saying the technique mimicked the one used by the US police officer who killed George Floyd.

An investigation into the incident will be launched, according to the Brussels police, who, earlier this week, said it was also investigating footage of a teen saying he was beaten up by police after Sunday’s protest.

In the meantime, Belgian prince Laurent stated that he “did not see” how King Leopold II could have harmed Congolese people, as “he never went to the Congo,” as the debate on the former king’s legacy restarted following the protest.

So, what else is new? Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk responded to a video of a Belgian man’s car, the promised face masks will finally be distributed, and a recap of the latest coronavirus figures.

With so much information, and so little time to catch up before it potentially changes again, here are some of the top stories from around the country to get you up to speed.

Belgium in Brief is a free daily roundup of the top stories to get you through your lunch break conversations. To receive it straight to your inbox every day, sign up below:

1. 90% of flights can resume from Monday, says Brussels Airport

Despite the bankruptcy of Brussels Airport’s ground handler Swissport a week before flights were set to resume after the lockdown, 90% of flights will not experience any difficulties, according to the airport.

On Monday morning, the bankruptcy of ground handler Swissport Belgium was announced, costing about 1,500 employees their jobs. As the company was responsible for 60% of handling, the bankruptcy left the airport and Brussels Airlines with a tight deadline to find a solution for the resumption of flights on 15 June.

“90% of flights at Brussels Airport are covered. We are ready to restart from Monday,” Nathalie Pierard, spokesperson for Brussels Airport, told The Brussels Times. Read More.

2. ‘Shock’ at Brussels cop seen kneeling on teenager’s neck after BLM protest

Credit: Jonathan del Valle / TBT

Witnesses to an arrest in Brussels said they were “shocked” to see an officer kneel on top of a teenager for minutes, saying the gesture mimicked the one used by the US policeman who killed George Floyd.

Photos of the arrest on Sunday show two police officers in riot gear pinning a teen to the ground, with bystanders saying one was kneeling on the back of his neck and twisting his arm.

Speaking to The Brussels Times, three witnesses described police’s use of force as excessive, with one saying that the teenager was crying out in pain and that he was arrested for an unclear reason. Read More.

3. Free face mask distribution by pharmacies starts Monday

The delivery of free face masks from the federal authorities this week is going well, the Belgian Pharmaceutical Association (APB) said on Thursday.

As from Monday, every citizen will be able to get a face mask free of charge from a pharmacist. The masks will be distributed in phases over a period of 10 days depending on age. Starting 15 June, people born in 1945 or earlier will be able to pick up a mask. A younger age group will be added every day thereafter.

“Most pharmacists have received the masks. We are even slightly ahead of schedule,” said APB President Lieven Zwaenepoel. Read more.

4. Belgium’s Prince Laurent: ‘Leopold II never went to Congo’

Prince Laurent of Belgium said he did not see how King Leopold II could have harmed Congolese people because “he never went” to the Congo, which he personally owned for decades.

“He never went to Congo himself,” Laurent, the younger brother of Belgium’s King Philippe, said. “I do not see how he could have made people there suffer.” Read more.

5. Coronavirus: 108 new infections, 32 hospital admissions in Belgium

108 additional people have tested positive for the new coronavirus (Covid-19) in Belgium, confirmed the Federal Public Health Service during a press conference on Friday.

This brings the total number of cases in Belgium, since the beginning of the pandemic, to 59,819. The total reflects all people in Belgium who have been infected, and includes confirmed active cases as well as patients who have since recovered, or died from the consequences of the virus.

64 of the newly-infected people live in Flanders, 35 live in Wallonia, and 9 live in Brussels. “This trend seems to have stabilised. Over the past 7 days, it has increased by 1%, but this is, in fact, a stabilisation,” said professor Steven Van Gucht. Read more.

6. Austria lifts travel restrictions for 31 European countries

Austria will lift travel restrictions for 31 countries in Europe as of Tuesday 16 June, according to Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alexander Schallenberg.

Mandatory quarantine and testing for the coronavirus will no longer be necessary for people wanting to enter Austria from most European countries, including Italy, Croatia and Greece, the most popular summer destinations for Austrian tourists. Read More.

7. Elon Musk responds to Belgian’s Tesla swerving to avoid wild boar

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, responded to footage of a Belgian man’s self-driving Tesla, showing how it swerved autonomously to avoid a wild boar crossing the road.

Kenneth Van Hoesen was driving to his bakery at night, when a wild boar crossed the motorway in the municipality of Houthalen-Helchteren in the Limburg province and hit the side of the car.

“I pulled the steering wheel, but the car took over and chose the right lane immediately after the blow,” Van Hoesen told a local news outlet. Read More.

Maïthé Chini 
The Brussels Times

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