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Police warn corona demonstrators: Stay away from Brussels

The demonstration in Brussels in January, criticised for arbitrary arrests. © Belga

The police in Brussels Capital-Ixelles have issued a warning to anyone intending to take part in a demonstration planned for today to protest against the Covid-19 measures currently in force.

In the interest of public health, we ask you not to come and demonstrate tomorrow in the center of Brussels,” the police posted yesterday on Twitter.

If you gather in large numbers, you risk spreading the virus further.”

The Brussels demonstration is one of many planned for cities across the world, in protest at what organisers feel are anti-virus measures that restrict freedoms and violate human rights.

The Brussels demo has the approval of Brussels-City mayor Philippe Close (PS), under the usual strict rules: maximum 100 people, static demonstration (no march), social distancing and masks to be worn at all times.

On previous occasions, demonstrations held for legitimate reasons have descended into riot. Just last weekend the same happened, when a demo in Liege on police violence was hijacked by rioters who bombarded police with paving stones and looted shops.

There will be a significant police presence throughout the day to monitor this situation,” the police tweeted.

We will address those who gather and encourage them to return home. If they don’t, we will take the necessary action. It could be a fine or an administrative arrest.”

While the threat is to be taken seriously – it has happened before, in January in Brussels, that people who had nothing to do with a demonstration were arrested and detained for being in the vicinity – the legality of that sort of action has yet to be determined. So far, the police are not allowed to arrest people on their own say-so, despite the fact that they often do just that.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times