Back From the Brussels Demo.
Posted by Exile on September 12, 2007
I just got home about a half hour ago. Time enough to drop my suitcase, make myself a cup of tea and fill my pipe. Less than 24 hours ago I was in Luxembourg Square in Brussels and enjoying the hospitality of the Mayor of Brussels and his henchmen. Not that I was arrested, but I was, despite everything else, a guest in their town. Unwelcome guest, I presume.
Believing that a good reconnaissance is of value to the troops, I got into the centre early and made my way alone towards Luxembourg Square. I scouted the side streets and sat for a half hour on Luxembourg Road to “read the street”. Police in civilian clothes, police on motor cycles and the armoured brigade hidden up the side streets. Battle lines were being drawn. I sent the info on to others who I knew would be coming later. Mobile telephones are a boon to the people!
[The Light Brigade was on display..]
[The Armoured Division was hiding up a back street..!]
Finally, I went to the square and sat myself down at a pub in the corner nearest the EU parliament building and surveyed the mounting police and press operation. That was about 10:30, an hour and a half before the demo was due to start. The square was ringed by police on motorcycles, police cars and a water canon down the side street immediately to my left and behind me. The press were in the pub firing up the laptops and sharpening the pencils.
People started to arrive at about 11:30 and by 12:00 we numbered about 300. Others, I learned had gone to Schumann Square, outside the EU Commission, led by Vlaams Belaang, and they numbered about 700 as far as I could ascertain from reports on my telephone. I learned later, that they had been treated harshly by the police, whom I believe, were imported from Walloon. They (the police) were French speakers, not Dutch, which would indicate the authenticity of that information. About 150 people were officially arrested, but I heard that it was a higher number than that, and that the police had been especially aggressive, arresting an MP, Filip De Winter, and Franck VanHecke from Vlaams Belaang. We experienced none of that, although the police at Luxembourg Square made a big scene of arresting a group of people from the youth organisation, VNJ, Vlaams Nationalistische Jeugd, which may be some sort of appendage to Vlaams Belaang. They were bundled off to the building at the end of the square, in front of the parliament building and then thrown into paddy waggons and driven away.
[Anders on the left, Stephen on the right. The guy with his back to the camera is a police liaison officer.]
Anders Gravers and Stephen Gash arrived, with more demonstrators and the media circus got going, continuing all afternoon until about 16:00, when all was said and scribbled in shorthand, video taped and photographed for posterity. Even I got interviewed, mainly because I was fairly close to Anders and the reporters had seen us talking for a while over a beer. I gave them my tuppence worth and tried to explain that we were not protesting over Islam or muslims. We were protesting at the cowardice of our politicians. That got the pencils flying like never before and gave them a new angle to play. I hope they got the point. I had heard someone describe theEU parliament building as “the EU Deathstar” and couldn’t resist the quote!
I spent the rest of the afternoon swapping e-mail addresses, recruiting new SIO… bloggers and we will shortly have The Tjech Republic on line, France, Netherlands, Russia and Belgium. These people were eager to start something in their own countries, so I referred them to Anders Gravers or Stephen Gash.
One man stood out in the crowd for me. A Dane, about seventy years old, on crutches. Having no hair, he described himself as a real skinhead and was interviewed by two press people. A real hard line right wing extremist if I ever saw one! I was so proud of that old guy, and his wife. It had cost them dearly to be there, but there they were. They deserve everyones respect.
In short then, we were no more than 1500 at the most, spread over two locations and the police were effective in stopping many from getting to Luxembourg Square by filtering the Metro and bus stations and blocking streets. However, those of us that got through made our point, spoke to the press and cost Freddy Thielemans a packet. The police presence alone was an indication of just how afraid I believe some of the Euro-politicians are and encourages me to continue.
This was only the first round.
I will probably write more as my impressions congeal and my thoughts crystalise. Watch this space.