While previous marches drew tens of thousands to the streets of the Belgian capital, today’s march to depose the government only attracted around 1,600 people.
The demonstration’s aim was different this time around. Instead of marching against mandatory vaccination or the requirement of a Covid Safe Ticket (CST) in order to access many public spaces, protestors called for the removal of the Belgian government because of its lack of response to those previous marches, and suggested new causes not wholly related to the pandemic.
“We must unite to reclaim our freedom,” said Sarkis Simonjan, one of the organisers of the demonstration. “It is no longer about the division of society into vaccinated and unvaccinated, it is no longer about the virus. What threatens us now is the generalized control of all citizens on this planet, via QR codes, via our bank cards, or via the 5G [cell phone] network.”
Reasons for the much smaller crowd could include the fact that many coronavirus restrictions have already been loosened, or the new route laid out for the protest march intended to avoid giving rioters the opportunity to gather.
Another Sunday, another protest against Covid-linked restrictions in #Brussels. This time only a couple of hundreds of people have gathered at the start of the march Gare du Nord. Heavy police presence after last weeks. #Belgium pic.twitter.com/9q3yHijNnc
— Bruno Boelpaep (@BrunoBoelpaep) January 30, 2022
Mayor Vincent De Wolf of Etterbeek, where previous riots took place, said that while in the past demonstrators themselves caused violence, today’s protests see people attending solely to commit violent acts under the cover of a protest whose cause they don’t necessarily care about.
This most recent march with its new route was much more subdued than last week’s, in which violence broke out and around 230 people were arrested.
Only about 820 people confirmed their attendance on the official Facebook page for the event.