Several citizens and journalists have spoken up about being intimidated or assaulted by police after the Black Lives Matter protest in Brussels, with some clashes caught on tape.
Associations and news outlets are gathering testimonies of abuse as several people claim to have been physically or verbally assaulted by officers during the clashes that followed the protest, as well as unjustly arrested.
The association of Francophone journalists in Belgium (AJP) said it would file a complaint over a taped incident showing a police officer intimidating a reporter as he attempts to film officers pinning a black man to the ground.
The video, shot by French journalist Jeremy Audouard, shows a police officer aggressively asking him to back off and show his press card.
The officer continues to shove him and screams out to passers-by that Audouard does not have his card on him, even as the latter waves a card before the officer saying it’s his press ID and insists he has the right to film the arrest.
Un policier m'a menacé car je filmais l'arrestation d'un manifestant #BLM. Filmer est un droit. Papiers d'identité et carte de presse confisqués quelques minutes, du genre "je sais sui tu es maintenant". Intolérable @ajpjournalistes #Belgium #Police pic.twitter.com/mUPdcQ8Woi
— Jeremy Audouard (@Jeremyaudouard) June 7, 2020
“Journalists have the right to film the police and the police have no right to confiscate a press card. This is not permissible,” the AJP said following accusations that the officer had taken the card from Audouard.
Another video posted on Twitter shows the moments leading to the arrest that Audouard was attempting to film. In it, a group of police officers in riot gear can be seen tackling a black man from behind as the man walks alongside a white woman.
In a separate incident, citizen media platform ODP News published a video filmed by a journalist who is shoved in between bushes and roughed up by riot police in Place du Trône as he screams out that he’s a member of the press.
“He was clubbed several times, including in the head. He screamed ‘Press! Press!’ but that did not seem to bother the policeman who kept hitting him,” the newspaper wrote, adding that two of their reporters, one of whom was maced, were put on sick leave after the incident.
Images of the clashes in Place du Trône also show protesters lashing out at police, throwing projectiles at them as they surround a defaced statue of Leopold II and back down to their vehicles.
Olivier Slosse, spokesperson for the Brussels-Ixelles police zone could not immediately comment on either of the filmed incidents.
Spanish photographer Demi Alvarez also said that he would file complaints with journalists associations after he was clubbed by an officer while covering the protests and later put in handcuffs, Bruzz reports.
“I couldn’t sleep because of the pain,” Alvarez wrote on Twitter adding: “Tying the hands of the press is an undemocratic act that violates the law and freedom of expression and the press.”
Tying the hands of the press is an undemocratic act that violates the law and freedom of expression and the press. pic.twitter.com/jPC7smWJec
— Delmi Álvarez ? (@delmialvarez) June 8, 2020
‘Wrong place at the wrong time’
Several other people claimed to have been wrongly arrested or intimidated by police chasing down looters and rioters that broke off from the BLM demonstration.
“The police started picking up people from the street, they were people who were not doing anything. I was just watching and took out my mobile phone,” a woman, who identified herself as Eugenie and said she was wrongly arrested, told Bruzz.
“A girl panicked. A man who was doing nothing and just stood there was violently grabbed by the chief of police. Then the officers started pointing at people who were filming, and I was also violently handled,” she added.
Eugenie said that she was taken to police barracks in Etterbeek where she was held in a cell with 25 others for six hours, and that police gave her no explanation for her arrest.
“I asked my cellmates why they were arrested. A girl was arrested holding a pack of fries in her hands after she came from Burger King. Someone else was around with family and said she had done nothing wrong except that she was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” she told the outlet.
In another incident that took place after the protest, a 19-year-old was filmed testifying of how police picked him up on the street and put him inside a van where he said he was beaten up and insulted.
Spokesperson Ilse Van de Keere confirmed to The Brussels Times that an investigation had been launched regarding the teen’s allegations but declined to comment further.
The Belgian Network for Black Lives, a group which took place in the organisation of the BLM protest, has begun collecting testimonies and crowdfunding to support claims of wrongful arrests and police abuse during the looting.
On Monday, a police union also spoke out, filing a strike notice and calling for zero tolerance for instances of violence against the police, claiming that 28 officers had been injured during the clashes.
The Brussels Times