Extinction Rebellion announces protest during Grand-Place Christmas light show

Extinction Rebellion announces protest during Grand-Place Christmas light show
A non-disruptive and performative protest will take place during the Brussels Christmas Lights Show in Grand-Place. Credit: © Eric Danhier/visit.brussels

Extinction Rebellion (XR) Belgium will stage a massive performance protest in December in what the environmental activist group is calling the second phase of their global rebellion movement against leaders’ “criminal” inaction on climate.

The group will organise the performance at Brussel’s Grand-Place, a neutral zone where acts of protest are not permitted, in a renewed call for civil disobedience as a tool to call for policies to respond to a “toxic system that is killing our planet.”

“More and more citizens are realising that civil disobedience is necessary to save our planet from destruction,” spokesperson Christophe Meierhans said in a press release.

The performance act will take place on 20 December, coinciding with a sound and lights show in the city’s central square.

“At 8:08 PM exactly, right after the Christmas Sound and Light Show, all rebels present on the square will reveal their presence by performing XR’s ‘Sound Declaration of Rebellion,’ reading the text out loud as one giant collective voice,” the group said.

The environmental action group calls on anyone who “feels the urge to act for a fundamental change” in the fight against climate change to join in the action in the iconic main square, asking prospective attendants to wear nondescript clothes to ensure that police don’t prevent them from reaching the square.

The group’s call for a new act of protest comes after their Royal Rebellion in October, during which hundreds of activists and citizens occupied Place Royale and which deteriorated into chaos as police took to tear gas and water cannons to dislodge the square.

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The event saw over 400 people put under arrest and resulted in numerous denunciations of police’s hard-handed action against demonstrators, leading to the city of Brussels launching an inquiry into police’s use of force.

Activist Gert-Jan Vanaken said the group expected that their performative act would not draw a similarly repressive response from police, since it would be shorter in duration than the previous demonstration and would not involve any acts of disruption of blockades.

“It won’t be announced or framed as an action as such, rather a performance,” Vanaker said in a statement, adding: “Of course, one thing that we’ve learned is that police is unpredictable.”

The declaration which participants will read out loud during the protest, also organised to mark the groups one-year anniversary, will be made available online one week prior to the event.

The Belgian branch of the decentralised global movement for the environment has grown significantly, with the group saying that thousands have joined the ranks of the 12 local groups existing in Belgium, in places like Ghent, Antwerp, Namur, Limburg and Brussels.

“But our actions, from joining marches to the massive Royal Rebellion, have not woken up our governments yet,” the group’s statement read. “That is why we turn to the Grand-Place, one of the most iconic places of our country, to sound the alarm bell again and announce a second phase of rebellion against the toxic system that is killing our planet.”

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times

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