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238 activists arrested during Extinction Rebellion demonstration
A total of 238 people were arrested on Saturday afternoon during the Extinction Rebellion demonstration on Rue de la Loi in Brussels, according to a statement released by the Brussels-Capital/Ixelles police zone.
The environmental activist movement had called for an occupation of the central Brussels thoroughfare as part of a protest called "Time4rage". The idea was to use the unauthorised protest to denounce the political response to the ecological crisis that they consider to be "disastrous".
"Through this non-violent civil disobedience action, the movement wanted to express its anger after years of protests, student strikes, and petitions,” the movement said on Saturday night. “Our politicians do not remain inactive; they aggravate the problem by supporting harmful industries."
A large contingent of police officers had been mobilised before the demonstration began at midday. Police vans blocked a wide stretch of Rue de la Loi, beyond the neutral zone. "We had contact with the organisation and offered to accept a static protest, but this was refused," explained a spokesperson for the Brussels-Capital/Ixelles police zone. "As part of the Rue de la Loi is in the neutral zone, access has been controlled. Several vehicles were searched with the aim of arresting and identifying people in possession of objects that could be used for blocking."
Police officers, some accompanied by dogs and supported by a helicopter flying over the area, carried out the arrest of activists who had laid down in the road. According to the police, all 238 of those arrested were released from custody a few hours later.
The demonstrators wanted to show their dissatisfaction with what they believe to be a lack of courage on the part of politicians to effectively fight global warming, while the COP26 climate summit is currently being held in Glasgow.
"More and more international politicians are giving the impression of recognising the urgency of the situation when we hear them speak today,” said Xavier De Wannemaeker, spokesman for Extinction Rebellion. “Yet there is a huge gap between their words and their deeds. Too often they do the opposite of what they should be doing to keep our planet habitable."
The group cites in particular "the subsidised gas plants of (energy minister) Tinne Van der Straeten", "the extension of Liège airport for the e-commerce giant Alibaba" and "the pipeline linking the Ruhr to the port of Antwerp for which nature reserves must be sacrificed".