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Extinction Rebellion plans “peaceful protest” in Brussels’ Grand-Place on Friday despite no official request
Climate activist group Extinction Rebellion Belgium is marking its first anniversary with a collective performance in the Grand-Place on Friday that will follow the evening seasonal sound and light show at 20.00.
Brussels mayor Philippe Close told local media that the association has not introduced a request to organise the event in the ‘neutral zone’ of the Grand-Place, where all political demonstration is off-limits.
“Meetings between them and Brussels-Ixelles police zone have not been able to reach a compromise,” said Close.
The short performance would not block the square and would not be confrontational, Extinction Rebellion spokesperson Christophe Meierhans told The Bulletin.
He confirmed that the group had not made an official request for the “deliberate act of civil disobedience” and it was “consciously breaking the law as a more powerful way of protesting”.
But meetings between the environmental activists and police and local authorities had been constructive, said Meierhans.
“We told them that we were non-violent and wanted to put pressure on politicians, not police. They expressed their concerns about crowds and we changed our instructions to members.”
The planned performance, called Second Declaration of Rebellion, will celebrate the local group’s first anniversary of rebelling against the climate and ecological crisis.
Previous protests by the group in October resulted in confrontation with police and hundreds of arrests. Complaints of excessive violence by police officers are being investigated by the City of Brussels.
The group filed a complaint against the city on 19 December for “the illegal and arbitrary arrest” of 22 activists on the eve of Black Friday on 28 November.
Police arrested them as they left a café, the group said in a press release. “The activists were handcuffed and deprived of their liberty for 10 hours, they were subjected to strip searches and most of them had to sleep on the ground,” it said.
Extinction Rebellion is a global climate action group that has hundreds of chapters in around 70 countries. Founded in the UK in 2018, the movement “uses non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction and minimise the risk of social collapse”.
Photo: Extinction Rebellion protest at Place des Palais on 12 October 2019 © BELGA/Antony Gevaert