The police union VSOA criticised the Brussels’ city council following the criticism of possible excessive police violence during a climate demonstration near the Royal Palace on Saturday.
According to the police union, the city council itself should have taken better decisions regarding the demonstration, because some demonstrations are allowed more easily than others, or fewer safety measures are taken.
“The climate activist group Extinction Rebellion had requested a demonstration and said in advance that they would display civil disobedience by trying to enter the neutral zone in the Royal Palace’s garden,” said Patrick Roijens of the union on the Radio 1 programme ‘De Ochtend‘. “The city council must then decide whether to allow or prohibit the demonstration. And if they allow it, under what circumstances,” he added.
After the demonstration, the police was heavily criticised for using batons, a water cannon and tear gas in order to clear the Brussels’ Place Royal and the tram tracks, reported Belgian media.
“We want more clarity and neutrality. We often see that the tolerance limit is higher for specific groups, and lower for others,” said Roijens, reports Het Nieuwsblad. “For example, if tomorrow a rightwing organisation announces that they will demonstrate in Brussels, you can be sure that all measures will be taken to seal off the neutral zone. Brussels will be closed off, so the speak, starting from the ring road,” he said, adding that in this case, not only did the city give permission, they also made a ‘pispaal’ (literally translates as ‘pissing pole’, meaning someone who is always being blamed but cannot or is not allowed to react) out of the police.
The police union wants a conversation with the Brussels city council. “The people in the police force often do not feel supported. We want to have an open conversation with the city council and see how far we can get,” he said.
The mayor of Brussels, Philippe Close, does not agree with the criticism of the police union. A demonstration, regardless of whether it has a possible leftwing or rightwing motivation, is never judged on its content, said Close’s spokesperson, reports VRT NWS. Close wants to await the report on the police action before talking to the union.
The climate demonstration only got out of hand after several hours, according to the mayor. “There was a demonstration in the neutral zone, where demonstrations are not allowed, on Saturday morning. This was tolerated for six hours, until the protestors started blocking the trams tracks and took the city hostage,” his spokesperson said to VRT NWS. “The police repeatedly asked them to clear the tracks, but they refused. The mayor then decided that the square had to be cleared, and the police intervened,” he added.
The Brussels Times