Sunday, 14 March 2021
A relaunch plan for businesses in Liège will be developed and rolled out in the next few days following this weekend’s riots, the city’s mayor, Willy Demeyer, said on Sunday at a press conference at the city hall.
The plan will be aimed at helping businesses to recover after violent disturbances on Saturday afternoon in which rioters trashed a number of shops and stores.
“We want a city centre in which it feels good to live, where one can flourish,” alderwoman Christine Defraigne said. “We shall not let people down, and strong measures will be taken by the municipality.”
A structure will be put in place to help businesses to obtain compensation and insurance benefits. “The aim is to restore businesses in Liège as quickly as possible,” Demeyer said.
However, fear still reigned within the city’s business community after the previous day’s unrest. “Insurance does not work on fear,” Jean-Luc Vasseur, president of the Commerce Liégeois non-profit association told Belga news agency.
“Businesses on the Place Saint-Lambert have the feeling of reliving the 13 December 2011. That remains etched in everyone’s memory,” he said, referring to unrest in 2011 in Liège in which seven people died.
Using a Black Lives Matter demonstration as a pretext, between 200 and 300 rioters vandalised businesses, stole goods and damaged premises during riots in which a total of 36 police officers were injured and a dozen suspects have been taken in for questioning.
“In my 30-year career, I’ve never seen anything like that, also because the times are more complicated today,” Vasseur said. “It’s a bit like hitting a man or woman who is already down. It was destruction for the sake of destruction, and my heart goes out to the police. I know they did their best.”
Above and beyond the violence itself, businesses are also afraid their clients will turn their backs on their city. “There’s a repercussion on customers since people will believe the city centre is unsafe,” the Commerce Liégeois president explained. He hopes the police will be more present, and tougher on this type of gathering and violence “to the detriment of the freedom of certain people.”
The full extent of the violence on businesses was not yet known, but Vasseur said no business owners were injured.
The Brussels Times