Belgium has procedures to protect parliament from riots, assures Chamber
Thursday, 07 January 2021
Procedures exist to protect the democratic functioning of parliament in Belgium, said Eliane Tillieux speaker of the Chamber of Representatives, after the riots on the US Capitol.
Following the riots in Washington DC on Wednesday, Tillieux met with the security in charge of the parliament to go over the existing mechanism on Thursday.
The first of the parliament’s protections is the neutral zone in front of the building, which does not allow a gathering like the one that took place in front of the Capitol in the US. In case of proven risk, the gates of the parliament can be closed immediately, and the local police can be called in as reinforcements.
Additionally, badges are required to pass through the entrance gates of the buildings and, following the 2015 terrorist threat, security gates and bag-scanners have been installed at visitor access points.
Potential danger is likely to come from an isolated individual, rather than from a mob of people, but the Chamber has evacuation plans in that case, according to Tillieux.
“Everything has been put in place to ensure maximum security in our assembly,” she told the Belga Press Agency.
The neutral zone was created in 1892 on the initiative of then-mayor of Brussels Charles Buls, for fear of workers’ riots in the capital. In 1954, it was incorporated into law.
It covers the area around the Brussels Park in which the Royal Palace, the Parliament, and the seat of government are located. It was later amended to adapt to the boundaries of the area to the evolution of Belgian institutions, and in 2017 to implement a comparable system in Namur, around the seat of the Walloon parliament, and in Eupen, around the German-speaking institutions.
In these neutral zones, open-air gatherings and individual demonstrations are prohibited. However, the rule is far from always respected by the demonstrators who regularly march in Brussels and who sometimes attempt to enter or enter the area before being chased away by the police.