As promised last week, the environmental protest group Extinction Rebellion on Saturday invaded the Auto Salon currently under way in Brussels, to protest against the car industry and what it calls their “Salon of Lies”.
The organisation had called for groups and individuals to come to the Heysel and carry out actions of their choice, from distributing flyers and collaring representatives of the industry, to gluing themselves to cars and throwing fake blood around. Protesters were asked to stipulate that they were aware the actions might be unlawful, and arrest could result.
In the event, on what is assumed to be the busiest day of the Salon, the protest actions included shouting slogans in the exhibition hall, climbing into vehicles and locking themselves in, carrying around a sheet painted as a bus with the slogan “This is the only non-polluting vehicle here, and later bringing out the fake blood and carrying out a “die-in” where protesters lay on the ground to symbolise road deaths.
“We don’t trust the car industry to provide solutions on mobility or ecology,” said Lyllou Christine on the Extinction Rebellion website. “If the car industry really wants to be part of the solution to the climate and ecological crisis as they pretend, then they should be doing all they can to help a fundamental and democratic change in the way we perceive and practice mobility. New, large, powerful individual cars, whether powered by petrol, electricity, or whatever other type of energy source must no longer made the symbol of human freedom and accomplishment: they are in reality one of the balls and chains which are holding us back.”
Police made 185 arrests, though it is not certain those will all lead to charges. Protesters were also expelled from the Salon by security staff.
The automotive industry federation Febiac, organisers of the Salon, deplored the actions.
“Never in the past have there been as many hybrid and electric vehicles on display and on sale at the Auto Salon,” a spokesperson for Febiac said. “That is the result of massive investments and the continuing innovation of the sector.” The federation pointed also to the success of the Salon among members of the public. To date, in just over a week, some 450,000 people have visited the Salon, which closes today.