Extinction Rebellion Activists Disrupt Brussels Street, Demand End to Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Sarhan Basem
credit; brusselstimes

Brussels (Brussels Morning) – Several hundred activists from the environmental action group Extinction Rebellion intercepted Belliardstraat in Brussels on Saturday afternoon. Shortly before 4 p.m., the police placed a stop to the demonstration. About sixty activists declined to clear the street, and some had chained or glued themselves on the road surface.

What Are Extinction Rebellion’s Demands Regarding Fossil Fuels?

The demonstrators in Brussels urged an end to fossil fuel subsidies and the enactment of a national emergency plan for the transition to a successful, fossil-free economy that protects the weakest and the ecosystem, they say.

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

What Are the Consequences of Climate Inaction, According to Activists?

“A recent scientific paper indicates one billion deaths from the climate problem if nothing is done to stop global warming from exceeding 2 degrees Celsius,” the spokesperson persisted. “At a time when humans are the most significant cause of environmental destruction, jeopardising the habitability of the Earth, the obstinacy of European institutions and national governments in subsidizing fossil fuels amounts to an offence against humanity.”

In the run-up to the elections, the activists, who have joined under the banner of Stop EU Fossil Subsidies, caution about the vicious circle of the climate crisis, growing imbalance 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.”

What Urgent Action Does Extinction Rebellion Advocate for?

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

How Did the Police Respond to the Protest, and Why?

Around 3:30 p.m., the demonstrators acquired the message that they had to end their act or risk being arrested. A large number of the demonstrators then exited Belliardstraat and moved to Jean Reyplein, where another Extinction Rebellion protest was held. However, approximately sixty demonstrators arranged to occupy Belliardstraat and were administratively apprehended one by one. According to the police, the arrests are cruising without incident for the time being.

What Allegations Does Extinction Rebellion Make Against Police Actions?

However, according to Extinction Rebellion, the police disruption was attended by “disproportionate police violence” and “an unprecedented reaction from the Belgian police”. 

“People at the scene claimed that police wearing riot gear forced 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 behaviour by police towards non-violent demonstrators exercising their freedom of assembly is illegal and authoritarian,” it said.

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

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Sarhan Basem is Brussels Morning's Senior Correspondent to the European Parliament. With a Bachelor's degree in English Literature, Sarhan brings a unique blend of linguistic finesse and analytical prowess to his reporting. Specializing in foreign affairs, human rights, civil liberties, and security issues, he delves deep into the intricacies of global politics to provide insightful commentary and in-depth coverage. Beyond the world of journalism, Sarhan is an avid traveler, exploring new cultures and cuisines, and enjoys unwinding with a good book or indulging in outdoor adventures whenever possible.