A demonstration organised by the protest group Extinction Rebellion (XR) in the Brussels Grand Place on Friday passed off without serious incident, aside from the city’s secret weapon of a sound and light show.
The group is calling for action on climate change, and favours tougher action than the demonstrating school students – such as the blockage of roads in the centre of London recently. The Grand Place demonstration was announced in advance, but never received official approval, leading to a clash with Brussels mayor Philippe Close and the threat of a confrontation with police, whose headquarters are just around the corner from the historic square.
In the end, there were no serious incidents, after the city brought out its latest anti-demo weapon. Every evening in this period, visitors to the square are treated to a son et lumière – a sound and lights show illuminating the facade of the Gothic city hall.
The scheduled show ended at 20.00, to be followed two minutes later by the extinction Rebellion contribution: the logo of the organisation was itself projected onto the city hall, while members in luminous clothing, absent the XR logo declared banned by Close, mixed with the crowds. Then, unexpectedly, a new unscheduled performance of the light show started up, drowning out members of the activist group and proclamations of their manifesto. Meanwhile, the luminous demonstrators seemed to be subsumed into the official show. The protestors left the square after about half an hour of this.