The City of Brussels will step in to help businesses looted in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter demonstration on Sunday, Brussels Mayor Philippe Close said.
In a council meeting on Monday, Close defended his decision to allow the demonstration to go forward, despite being hit by criticism over the ensuing chaos and the risks linked to the coronavirus pandemic.
Close doubled down on comments made on Sunday after rioters and looters broke off from the main group and trashed shops in the high-end Louise area before moving into a high-street in Matongé.
“What happened to the traders is outrageous. I agree. We met them this morning and the City of Brussels will intervene for the damage incurred,” he said.
Around 10,000 people attended the static protest on Place Poelaert on Sunday, with many choosing to wear face masks in line with the agreement between organisers and the city. But the massive turnout meant it was largely impossible for attendants to respect the social-distancing guidelines during the roughly 1.5 hours the event lasted, leading virologist to voice concerns over a possible flare-up of the new coronavirus (Covid-19).
The demonstration on Monday also coincides with weeks of relaxed lockdown measures, including the reopening of museums, gyms and sports centres, and weeks after all shops were allowed to reopen.
The clashes on Sunday saw organisers of the march distance themselves from the looters and also condemn the use of force by police, who arrested hundreds after the looting started.
On Monday, a police union filed a strike notice and asked for “zero tolerance” for instances of violence against the police.