Parents file group complaint against Brussels police for response to January protest

Parents file group complaint against Brussels police for response to January protest
Credit: Belga

The parents of a group of young people who participated in the illegal mass gathering to protest police brutality and class injustice back in January have filed complaints seeking to identify and punish the police officers who they say responded to their children with inappropriate force.

“We are not concerned with compensation,” one of the parents said, according to De Standaard. “We stand up for everyone who is confronted with abuse of power by the police. We believe that there are many people in the police who want to do their job in a decent way. We want this to remain on the agenda and for politicians to take their responsibility.”

The Brussels public prosecutor’s office has already opened an investigation into the police response to the protests held on 24 January in Brussels, where a few hundred people gathered in Mont des Arts in the unauthorised demonstration that violated coronavirus measures.

There were at least 245 administrative arrests at the rally, including 86 minors. Some young people who were not demonstrating were caught up in the arrests because they were in the area for other reasons, like waiting for a bus or trying to catch a train.

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Testimonies about the police response to the protest include attendants describing excessive force on behalf of the police, many of whom they say struck protestors, and did not wear their identification badges.

The lawyers of the families involved say these testimonies are only a small part of a greater problem.

“It is exceptional that so much comes out,” said Joke Callewaert, a lawyer from Progress Lawyers Network who represents a number of victims. “It is also exceptional that victims dare to stick their necks out and reveal themselves.”

40 complaints will be submitted to the courts from around ten families, as well as some adults who are also filing complaints on behalf of themselves.

Lawyers are also preparing civil proceedings against the Brussels-Ixelles police zone, the city of Brussels, and Belgium itself, with the goal of identifying the hierarchical and political structures responsible for police abuses and demanding moral compensation in the form of measures meant to prevent a repeat of what happened at January’s protest.

Helen Lyons

The Brussels Times

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