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Extinction Rebellion protest: Police disciplinary investigations launched

09:23 22/10/2019

The City of Brussels has opened four separate disciplinary investigations against police officers following complaints of excessive violence at a recent protest by climate activism group Extinction Rebellion.

Up to 250 people joined a demonstration against police violence in Brussels on Monday, following the incidents on the 12 October march in the city centre.

Monday's protest was coordinated by the "United against police violence" Facebook group. Campaigners taking part included the Students for Climate group, the Citizen Refugee Support Platform - and a handful of "yellow vests".

Six people who were witnessed the police's actions were invited to a Brussels city council meeting on Monday to ask questions.

"I was hit by police officers for no reason," one participant said. "There is a loss of police legitimacy if officers use excessive violence.

"We want the city to establish the facts quickly and inform us of what measures will be taken to ensure that this does not happen again."

Socialist city councillor Opuku Bosompra told a council meeting on Monday that there was "a problem of mentality among some police officers" in the face of "non-violent people who have been treated like criminals".

Singer-songwriter Brick de Bois, who was one of the people arrested, told The Bulletin's radio show this weekend: "Many police officers were totally unprepared to be confronted by people who were nice. They were totally prepared to react to people who were aggressive or violent. They were amazed because we were so friendly."

Brussels mayor Philippe Close said two of the disciplinary cases related to the use of tear gas against the protestors, who had gathered near the Royal Palace.

A third investigation will look into 33 formal complaints lodged by activists present on the day. The fourth will address claims made in a report by the Flemish broadcaster VRT about custody conditions in Brussels' central police station.

According to Close, 317 people were subject to an administrative arrest and another 118 were taken to the central police station for an identity check. Those arrested were freed between 21.00 that evening and 3.00 in the morning.

He said police intervened two and a half hours after the protest began. They had asked protestors several times to move away from the Rue Royale tram tracks, to allow public transport to resume.

Written by The Bulletin