Brussels' Women's Day march tainted by police violence reports

Brussels' Women's Day march tainted by police violence reports
The organisers of the march called on witnesses to submit their testimonies, photos and videos in order to file a complaint. Credit: The Brussels Times

A women's march on Sunday which saw over 6,000 demonstrators brave the rain to mark International Women's Day ended with tensions between several protesters and police, as well as reported injuries.

Setting off from Gare Centrale, demonstrators first took to the streets of the Marolles neighbourhood, marking a stop in front of the Palais de Justice before pouring into Rue Royale.

Violence against women was a prominent theme on this year's event, with a Chilean anti-rape performance that went viral throughout the globe performed just ahead of the departures in Brussels, Ghent and Liège.

Credit: The Brussels Times

The march in Brussels saw some 6,300 demonstrators brave the rain, chanting songs and slogans and waving signs to denounce issues ranging from sexist violence and harassment to the gender pay gap and broader inequality between the genders.

The numbers provided by the police for this year's edition of the women's march mark a steep decline in comparison to the turnout last year, which organisers said had been of 15,000.

Organised by the feminist group Collecti.e.f 8 maars, the march in Brussels was mirrored by sister marches held in cities like Mons, Namur, Ghent, Antwerp and Tournai.

Worldwide, tens of thousands of woman took to the streets of their cities in similar demonstrations, with turnout particularly high in Latin America, where a staggering climb in femicides and sexual violence have fueled mass protest movements.

Injuries reported after police intervention

Labelled a success by the organisers —who, in contrast to the police, put the number of participants at 10,000— tensions between some groups of participants began brewing with police at the end of the march.

"During the demonstration in Brussels, several people were injured as a result of police violence," the collective said on Facebook.

As protesters gathered in Place Albertine, by Gare Centrale, to mark the end of the march, a group of protesters faced-off with riot police deployed to the event, as some participants set off firecrackers.

The collective also said that a woman's wrist had been broken and that two women had been "violently handled" by police as they arrested participants caught graffiti tagging.

"As one [woman] attempted to protect another, she was grabbed and dragged along the street by four police officers, with one kneeling on her to keep her on the ground and hitting her in the face," the group wrote on Facebook.

Police spokesperson Olivier Slosse said that the Brussels-Ixelles police zone had not been made aware of any incidents involving a broken wrist but that they knew that at least two ambulances had been called during the demonstrations.

Slosse said that there had been an intervention involving police units and demonstrators who were tagging a number of buildings, including a synagogue and a music conservatory that saw police "use coercion" after the protesters resisted.

In a statement to the Belga news agency, fellow spokesperson Ilse Van de Keere said that the demonstrators were "playing a game of cat and mouse with police," adding that "a number of case files" on some demonstrators were being established and would be forwarded to prosecutors.

The group said that a complaint would be filed and called on those affected to come forward with testimonies, photos or videos of the reported incident.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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