Brussels approves 'static' Black Lives Matter protest

Brussels approves 'static' Black Lives Matter protest
US demonstrators stage a die-in in protest of the killing of unarmed black civilian George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis. © Belga

A "static" Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstration will go forward in Brussels after the organisers reached an agreement with Mayor Philippe Close.

Following a morning of talks with city officials, Close spokesperson Wafaa Hammich told The Brussels Times that police would allow participants to gather on Place Poelaert, in front of the Palace of Justice on Sunday, from 3:00 to 4:30 PM.

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As of Friday, more than 6,000 people on Facebook have said they plan to attend the march and tens of thousands more have said they were interested.

The demonstration will be "static," Close's cabinet told the Belga news agency, in an attempt to keep the protest in line with the current coronavirus measures, under which mass demonstrations remain banned.

BLM spokesperson Dido Lakama said in a phone statement that talks with Close and the police had been positive and said Close had opted for tolerance and "heard our message."

"We are aware that the mayor chose a stance of tolerance, even if [Prime Minister Sophie] Wilmès had strongly advised against the protest," Lakama said.

Wilmès on Thursday called for an alternative to the protest, which comes as anti-racism protests fueled by the police killing of George Floyd in the US police gain traction worldwide.

Lakama said some 42 different advocacy groups and non-profits had come together to organise the demonstration, which he confirmed would not take the form of a march to ensure maximum safety for participants.

Those attending the protest will be required to respect social-distancing and other sanitary guidelines imposed to limit risks linked to Covid-19.

In statements to LN24, Close said that he had decided to allow the "static" demonstration in an effort to uphold the right of protest despite the lockdown in an effort to uphold democratic values in the Belgian capital.

"Demonstrations are still banned, but, at the same time, Brussels is among the world's capitals for freedom of expression," he said.

Close also pointed out that Belgium continued to move ahead with the lockdown phase-out, with bars and restaurants set to reopen from Monday, and with some local authorities already beginning to relax some rules.

The march on Sunday comes after a first attempt to organise a Black Lives Matter march by a different group of organisers was cancelled on Monday.

The initial organisers, who have remained anonymous, decided to pull the plug on the event and apologised, following a wave of criticism on social media, as many pointed out that organising a protest without authorisation from authorities could put attendants at risk.

The new march comes as anti-racist activists and local non-profits in Brussels reorganise and rally behind the BLM movement in Belgium and coincides with a global movement against police brutality and systemic racism which has seen US protests spill over to the streets of cities like London, Amsterdam, New Zealand or Brazil.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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