Brussels, (Brussels Morning)- On Tuesday evening, activists took road signs and pulled out poles during a protest against the circulation plan in Schaerbeek. Images show how the activists can apparently go about their business without the police intervening. “Initially it was about temporary signage that had to be replaced anyway. We have tolerated that,” said the spokesman for the Noord police zone, Roger De Beule. “When furniture was destroyed, we intervened.”
About two hundred activists went on Tuesday evening during a short route (less than ten minutes on foot) from Place Stephenson, past Paviljoenplein to Place Colignon at the town hall, to protest against the circulation plan. Along the way, they took road signs with them, which they placed symbolically on the steps of the town hall, and pulled out newly placed posts.
“We were amazed at the atmosphere,” explains Roger De Beule, ad interim spokesman for the Brussels North police zone, pointing out that a demonstration also took place on Monday, which was much quieter. “Initially it seemed to be the same situation as the day before, but then the furniture was quickly destroyed. It didn’t take long for us to intervene.”
However, a reporter on the spot noticed something else. BRUZZ journalist Kevin Van den Panhuyzen was present at Stephensonplein from 7 pm. The demonstration was already in full swing, and he was also able to film how the poles were pulled out of the ground. “I have not seen any police. I haven’t seen them intervene anywhere. But it was a very chaotic situation anyway,” says Van den Panhuyzen.
“Initially it was about temporary signage that had to be replaced anyway. So we tolerated that. Intervening at a time in a neighbourhood where the ordinary population leads an ordinary life is always more difficult. Then it becomes a cat and mouse game,” says De Beule. “It is then a matter of weighing up: there must also be sufficient staff, and we must also give them the opportunity to express themselves, as long as it was about temporary signage. Then that is a good way to give them an outlet.”
“But”, emphasises De Beule, “when the atmosphere became grim and people went further than removing the temporary signage, such as pulling out fixed posts, it was decided to intervene. At one point, a group of 15 to 20 people had also separated themselves from the rest of the demonstrators.”
Some activists even tried to set fire to a construction site crane and the police were also pelted . A firefighter and two police officers were injured. “Then a game of cat and mouse arose with those twenty people who clearly had other intentions and had no intention of going down to Colignonplein,” says De Beule.
The North police zone had initially sent a traffic operative to the scene, as did about twenty police officers whose task it was to maintain order and to make arrests if necessary. “In the course of the evening we decided to switch to Plan B and reinforcements arrived, such as a spray truck from the federal police and some colleagues from Brussels-Capital-Ixelles.”
Ultimately, nine people were arrested, three of whom were administratively and six judicially. Four of them have since been made available to the public prosecutor, according to De Beule.