Belgium’s interior minister has asked local authorities to limit the right to protest, saying concerns linked to the coronavirus pandemic override it.
“I expressly ask you to restrict the right to demonstrate in your municipality or — if really necessary — to ban a demonstration,” Minister Pieter De Crem said.
De Crem asked that public gatherings be limited to 20 people for now and to 50 people from 1 July and urged local officials to prioritise dialogue with organisers of potential protests “to put forward possible alternative ways to exercise their right to freedom of expression.”
In the letter, sent to all municipal mayors as well as to provincial governors, De Crem argues that the right of protest is not absolute, and can be subject to other factors, HLN reports.
“The right to protest must be limited for the time being in the interest of public health,” he wrote, adding that it remained “essential” to avoid a new peak of Covid-19 infections after new cases dipped to 71 according to Monday’s figures.
De Crem’s letter follows a massive Black Lives Matter protest which saw some 10,000 people pack Brussels’ Place Poelaert on 7 June.
It also comes on the same day that Belgium reopened its borders to all types of travel and comes one week after all bars, restaurants and cafés were allowed to reopen as the government races to revive catering and tourism’s hard-hit economies.
The Brussels Times