A peaceful demonstration yesterday in Brussels by members of the Extinction Rebellion movement ended with 60 protesters being arrested.
The protest started in front of the Bourse in central Brussels, before moving to Rue Neuve and the Finance Tower by Botanique metro, which had earlier in the week had the word ‘Finance’ removed from its facade.
The intention then had been to replace the letters with the word ‘Resilience’ during Saturday’s protest. However police detailed the protesters, as well as journalists present, on the nearby Boulevard Pacheco, in a technique known by British police as ‘kettling’ – enclosing a group of marchers within a ring of security, making it impossible for them to move in any direction.
The replacement of the old Finance Tower sign with the protesters’ replacement would now be possible, police said.
The march then intended to walk to Rue de la Loi nearby, the location of government offices including that of the prime minister, as well as the entrance to the federal parliament.
However police informed the marchers that would not be permitted – the street is part of a no-go zone for demonstrations of any kind – and gave marchers the option of disbanding and leaving.
Most marchers decided to abandon the protest and leave the scene, leaving behind their personal details and their protest banners.
But around 60 stayed. They were detained, their details logged, and released later in the evening without charges. The day’s protests had been peaceful throughout.
Extinction Rebellion (XR) is a global environmental movement founded in 2018 which aims to use civil disobedience to compel governments to take action to protect the environment.
The movement has no organisation as such, but has stated that anyone protesting in support of its main aims can claim to be representing XR.
“We are at a turning point in history,” said the Brussels movement’s spokesperson, identified only as Pauline.
“We are coming out of a major health crisis and now is the perfect time to stop and wonder what we want to do with our world. We need to take a break and think about our real needs for the future. Do we want to return to a system based on fossil fuels, industrial agriculture, human exploitation and structural racism? Or do we want to work for a resilient society that recognizes the urgency of the different crises that lie ahead?”