‘Would not happen to a white MEP’: Brussels police accused of racism
Share article:
Share article:

‘Would not happen to a white MEP’: Brussels police accused of racism

German MEP Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana filed a complaint for police brutality against officers of the Brussels North police zone. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana, a German MEP, is filing a complaint against the Brussels police for being treated harshly during a police check on Tuesday.

During the plenary session of the European Parliament on Wednesday afternoon, the 71-year-old German MEP for Die Grüne (the Greens), who was born in Mali, spoke about what happened to her in Brussels.

Around 2:30 PM on Tuesday afternoon, Herzberger arrived in the Brussels Gare du Nord by train and witnessed nine police officers checking two black young men at the back of the station. The officers were checking people in the neighbourhood after a man was knocked unconscious with an iron rod during a fight last weekend and ended up in hospital, reports De Morgen.

When the officers saw Herzberger pointing her cell phone at them to make images, they stopped her as well. “Four armed cops brutally pushed me against the wall, violently took my handbag, searched my wallet, confiscated my phone and pressured me,” her complaint said, according to the newspaper.

“One cop told me to stand against the wall with my legs spread, hands against the wall. He wanted to search me (…) He spoke German and I told him not to touch me. His answer: ‘Against the wall. I do what I want, you stay there’,” the complaint said.

She was then searched by a female officer, and another one dumped the contents of her handbag on the ground. They searched her backpack and a suitcase as well.

However, according to the Brussels-North police zone, the officers tried to make sure the check was carried out calmly. “Our officers acted professionally,” a spokesperson told De Morgen. “By filming, the woman became involved in the check. She initially refused to give her identification documents,” they added.

Tine Destrooper, professor of Human Rights at the UGent, however, witnessed the check and found that it was carried out so harshly that she, too, took out her phone to make images, when she saw a black woman being violently pushed against the wall.

“A policeman shouted at me that I was not allowed to film, but they were unlucky that I do know my rights,” Destrooper told De Morgen. Filming a police check is allowed in Belgium, but Destrooper still stopped. She was then also checked.

Related News:


“I did not have my ID card in my pocket, but I had a digital copy of it. That cop said he would send me a fine of €500 for that. He would not identify himself, but he said I would see the name on the fine. It was all very intimidating,” she added.

The police zone started an internal investigation, and informed the Brussels Public Prosecutor’s Office as well. According to the police spokesperson, this was done because the police officers drew up a judicial report against Pierrette Herzberger. Against Tine Destrooper, an administrative (GAS) penalty has been drawn up.

Destrooper, in turn, has lodged a complaint for harassment with Committee P, the organ supervising the police services.

On behalf of Herzberger, her lawyer Alexis Deswaef lodged a complaint with the Public Prosecutor’s Office, for intentional assault and battery, humiliating treatment, abuse of power, but also racism and discrimination.

Several times, Herzberger told the officers that she was a member of the European Parliament, but they did not believe her, according to her. Even though she had already handed over all her documents at the beginning of the check, including her MEP card.

“They asked what she was technically doing there, by which they meant that she was a cleaning lady in parliament or something,” her lawyer Deswaef told De Morgen, clarifying that a cleaning lady should also not be handled more harshly than an MEP. “The police could not imagine that a black woman was an MEP. This would never happen to a white MEP,” the lawyer added.

The President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, is going to ask the Belgian authorities for an explanation about the events.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Experts call for more widespread use of masks as figures rise
As coronavirus figures continue to rise, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has suggested that people return to wearing masks when indoors with ...
Belgium wants to recover €420 million in wrongfully paid out coronavirus aid
The Belgian State intends to recover €420 million of unduly paid Covid-19 aid, La Libre Belgique reported on Thursday. The electronic Council of ...
Why the fight for transgender rights is polarising Europe 
Year after year, Samuel De Schepper would ask Santa Claus to bring him a penis for Christmas. Born female and attending an all girl’s Catholic ...
New offshore wind farm officially opened
Despite being operational since the end of 2020, the SeaMade offshore wind farm was officially inaugurated on Wednesday by Prime Minister Alexander ...
Contact tracers have no time for calls, only texts, amid rising cases
Contract tracers will no longer make phone calls to the high-risk contacts of people who test positive for the coronavirus beginning from Wednesday, ...
Belgium holds on to top spot in FIFA rankings despite recent losses
Once again, Belgium's Red Devils have held onto their position at the top of the world football rankings, according to an update released by the ...
Proximus pushes for high-speed internet in Brussels and Wallonia
Fifteen municipalities in Wallonia should soon have access to high-speed internet through the rollout of fibre optics in the region, telecoms giant ...
Why Belgium is regulating sex work
After decades of confusing rules and hypocritical policy, Belgium is finally regulating sex work by removing prostitution from the criminal law. ...
World’s largest chocolate warehouse opens in Flanders
On Thursday, Barry Callebaut – the largest global chocolate processor and manufacturer – opened the world's largest chocolate warehouse in Lokeren, ...
Belgium in Brief: Equal Opportunity To Dance
There's a phrase where I'm from, more often said in jest nowadays, but it came to my mind this morning: "Ye dancin'?" (Are you dancing?), one ...
Farmer discovers cocaine in banana boxes bought in Brussels
A Flemish farmer who purchased boxes of bananas at the market in Brussels on Tuesday came home to discover large amounts of cocaine packed among the ...
Changes to speed cameras increase likelihood of a ticket
Changes to the way speed cameras work in Flanders and Wallonia will increase the likelihood of receiving a ticket when cars pass them above the ...