A static demonstration is due to take place in Brussels later today in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and in protest at police violence against people of colour.
Yesterday saw protests, mostly peaceful, take place across the United States and as far afield as Australia. Closer to home, demonstrations were also held in Antwerp and Liege.
A similar protest planned to be held in Brussels today was at first ordered not to take place by the city authorities on the grounds that it would certainly breach social distancing rules. However the city later relented and said it would “tolerate” a static demonstration.
That will now take place on the Place Poelaert in front of the Justice Palace, starting at 15.00.
Meanwhile, overnight, activists from the Make Noise For Climate movement projected the image of George Floyd – the black man killed by police in Minneapolis, whose death triggered the latest wave of protests – on to what they described as symbolic targets (photo). Those included the Justice Palace itself, a police van and a statue of King Leopold II, now generally considered responsible for the deaths of thousands of victims of colonialism in the Congo, as well as the maiming and torture of many more.
Leopold II is himself now the subject of a campaign to have statues of him removed from public places in and around Brussels, which has seen many busts and statues defaced.
Meanwhile yesterday in Antwerp, a protest demonstration was held in the Groenplaats in support of the battle against institutional racism and police violence. According to police, 500-700 people took part.
The crowd was addressed by Mohamed Barrie, the driving force behind Black History Month Belgium. “Let it be clear that Black Lives Matter is not a hype,” he said. “This must become an everyday struggle.”
At the same time in Liege, a crowd of about 700 gathered on the esplanade of the main railway station. Like those in Antwerp and Brussels, this demonstration was officially forbidden, but unofficially tolerated.
“Whether you live in Liège, Kuala Lumpur or Tokyo, sympathy has no borders,” one protester told the RTBF. “Today it is normal to show our solidarity with the family of the victim.”
And he pointed out that racism is not a problem for the US alone.
“Of course I have already felt racism coming from the police but not only from them. At school, from teachers or classmates. In general, it is not political racism, but it is due to ignorance.”
The demonstrations in Belgium come after a week in which prosecutors pled in court for a one-year prison sentence for a policeman who beat up a Sudanese refugee and smashed his mobile phone for no apparent reason. The officer admitted the offence and offered no explanation other than that he has “seen red” for a moment.
The defence argued the man had been in the special interventions unit for eight years and had been involved in “only” five incidents. The court will announce its sentence later this month.