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Demonstrators gather in Ixelles in support of victims of sexual assault

Illustration picture shows a protest march following multiple testimonies of victims of sexual violence in two bars in the 'cimetiere d'Ixelles - Begraafplaats van Elsene' quarter in Brussels, Thursday 14 October 2021. (BELGA PHOTO JULIETTE BRUYNSEELS)
06:05 18/10/2021

Around 1,300 people gathered at Ixelles cemetery in support of victims of sexual assault. It comes after numerous claims on social media of sexual assault and rape committed by at least one employee at two bars in the neighbourhood.

The testimonies and official complaints against staff at the two local bars, Waff and El Café, have led to an investigation being opened by the Brussels prosecutor's office. It is alleged that one bartender accused of abuse has had 17 allegations made against him spanning six years.

The demonstrators gathered at the cemetery before walking towards Place Fernand Cocq where the mayor of Ixelles, Christos Doulkeridis, met with a delegation.

"We can't take it any more,” said one protestor. “Why do we have to be so cautious and on guard when we go out, why do we have to make sure no drugs are put in our drinks? This has to stop.”

"We will hold the mayor of Ixelles to account," added one of the organisers of the demonstration. "For years, the offending cafes have been the subject of complaints from abused girls. And what does the police do? What does the department of justice do? Nothing. There is a real trivialisation of rape culture in our society. This must end."

Christos Doulkeridis responded by saying: "The fight against violence against women is a priority of our police. I will initiate an analysis of the situation. Women’s groups and citizens will lead this. Then I will meet with the representatives of the hospitality sector so that concrete measures can be taken. It is intolerable that women are sexually assaulted when they go out or go for a drink."

The two bars in question closed their doors during the demonstration to avoid provocation and incidents. The management of the two bars also indicated that they would take action "if the facts were proven". This did not prevent the demonstrators from spraying graffiti on the front of the El Café.

"We understand the feelings of revolt and anger aroused by such acts, which we strongly condemn," the bar’s management told reporters. "We fully support this demonstration for the victims of abuse. However, it is unacceptable for our waitresses, waiters and customers to be insulted, harassed and spat on. This goes too far. That is why we call for calm. We have made the decision to close our properties tonight, in order to protect our customers and staff."

Written by Nick Amies