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Hundreds gather for unauthorised protests in Bois de la Cambre

Illustration shows the 'European Manifestation for Freedom' who decided to go from the Bois de La Cambre - Ter Kamerenbos, to Schuman and European neighbourhood in Brussels, Saturday 29 May 2021. (BELGA PHOTO HATIM KAGHAT)
07:02 31/05/2021

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered without official permission at the Bois de la Cambre before marching towards the European quarter on Saturday.

Nine demonstrations had been announced for this weekend in Brussels but only one had received authorisation, namely the gathering in the city centre of healthcare workers protesting for better working conditions and healthcare.

Reporters suggested that around 2,000 people attending La Boum 3, the European Demonstration for Freedom, and a rally in support of the Uyghurs, among other causes, converged on the park at around 15.00. Police said the number was significantly lower, stating around 500 people were in attendance.

According to reports, the demonstrators first gathered at the entrance to the park and began singing in what has been described as a good-natured atmosphere. There was no social distancing and very few face masks being worn, which was in line with what many of the demonstrators in attendance were protesting: the perceived "health dictatorship".

Many carried banners demanding more freedom and democracy. Others criticised the government, the press, and vaccines. The majority of those present had responded to a call from the European Demonstration for Freedom & Democracy movement which denounces attacks on individual freedoms in the fight against the pandemic. Speakers in support of the movement delivered speeches to the crowd for nearly two hours.

Among those in attendance were also demonstrators in support of Jürgen Conings, the fugitive soldier and far-right sympathiser who is currently on the run and being hunted by the police and army.

Shortly before 17.00, some demonstrators left the Bois de la Cambre to march towards the European quarter with a police escort.  "We want to submit a petition signed by 80,000 people to demand the return of our constitutional rights," said one of the demonstrators. "People from several countries are gathered here, all for the same reason."

The procession arrived at the European Commission at around 18.15. The police had restricted access to the square in front of the Berlaymont building with barbed wire and a line of 40 officers in riot gear prevented protesters from approaching. A few isolated clashes took place between the police and demonstrators, with stones being thrown at the officers who responded with tear gas.

Around 19.00, the crowd dispersed. Some left the area while others stayed at the Cinquantenaire Park. In the early evening, some demonstrators were back at the Bois de la Cambre, but the atmosphere was peaceful. The police vans left, leaving a few officers to stand guard.

Written by Nick Amies