Police arrest 132 Extinction Rebellion protesters after blockade of Brussels Belliardstraat: “Excessive violence” (Brussels)

Police arrest 132 Extinction Rebellion protesters after blockade of Brussels Belliardstraat: “Excessive violence” (Brussels)
Police arrest 132 Extinction Rebellion protesters after blockade of Brussels Belliardstraat: “Excessive violence” (Brussels)

Extinction Rebellion protesters demanded an end to fossil fuel subsidies and the implementation of a national emergency plan for the transition to a thriving, fossil-free economy that protects the most vulnerable and the ecosystem, they say.

“National and European governments spend a total of at least 405 billion euros every year on subsidies for large fossil fuel companies,” says spokesperson Bertina Maes. “That is ten times more than is spent on climate policy. The Belgian government alone spent between 12.9 and 20 billion euros on fossil fuel subsidies in 2020. The direct subsidies amounted to 2.4 percent of Belgian GDP.”

“A recent scientific paper predicts one billion deaths from the climate crisis if nothing is done to prevent global warming from exceeding 2 degrees Celsius,” the spokesperson continued. “At a time when humans are the greatest cause of environmental destruction, threatening the habitability of the Earth, the obstinacy of European institutions and national governments in subsidizing fossil fuels amounts to a crime against humanity.”

Vicious circle

In the run-up to the elections, the activists, who have united under the banner of Stop EU Fossil Subsidies, warn about the vicious circle of the climate crisis, growing inequality and the rise of extremism.

“The accelerated deterioration of the climate crisis and human well-being will continue to exacerbate the political disillusionment fueled by the far right,” says spokesperson Xavier De Wannemaeker. “In turn, far-right anti-environmental policies will worsen the climate crisis. Thus, we are continually accelerating our race toward ecological collapse and brutal dictatorship.”

Extinction Rebellion points out that the climate crisis is just the tip of the iceberg of ecological collapse, citing the work of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, led by environmental scientist Johan Rockstrom. “The SRC warns that radical action is urgently needed as humanity has already crossed six of the nine planetary boundaries. Four of these, such as biodiversity loss and the nitrogen crisis, now pose a greater threat to our survival than climate change.”


Police intervene

Around 3:30 p.m., the demonstrators received the message that they had to end their action or risk being arrested. A large number of the demonstrators then left Belliardstraat and moved to Jean Reyplein, where another Extinction Rebellion action was held.

Ultimately, 132 demonstrators were arrested. “The demonstrators were allowed to remain on site until 3:30 p.m.,” said a police spokesperson. They were asked to continue their action in Jean Rey Square. Some participants left voluntarily, but others had buckled up and had to be untied before they could be apprehended. A total of 132 people were arrested during the identification drive. An official report will be drawn up for each of them.”

“Excessive violence”

According to Extinction Rebellion, the police intervention was accompanied by “disproportionate police violence” and “an unprecedented police response”. “People at the scene testified that police wearing riot gear pushed protesters and outside speakers to the ground and hit them with sticks. Police officers then pushed peaceful demonstrators away in the direction of Belliard Street. This behavior by the police towards non-violent demonstrators exercising their freedom of assembly is illegal and authoritarian,” it said.

“The use of water cannon against peaceful protesters is deeply disturbing, and Extinction Rebellion urges police to exercise restraint and allow the right to peaceful and non-violent protest. Extinction Rebellion demands that the police respect the right to peaceful protest,” the organization said.

However, the Belga news agency reports that the arrests took place without incident. “Belga, which followed the action from start to finish, was able to determine that although the water cannon was present, it was not deployed at any time,” it said.




Tags: Police arrest Extinction Rebellion protesters blockade Brussels Belliardstraat Excessive violence Brussels


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