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Permit denied for far-right march, protestors pledge to go ahead
A requested permit for the March on Brussels, planned for this Sunday, has been denied, a decision reached between Brussels-City mayor Philippe Close and the Brussels-Ixelles police zone. The organisers of the march say they are planning to hold the protest anyway.
Organisers are protesting the cordon sanitaire in force against the extreme-right Flemish party Vlaams Belang. The party has been left out of government formation talks, both in Flanders and at the federal level.
Vlaams Belang gained the most ground in Flanders in the May elections, becoming the second-biggest party in the region and the third-biggest at the federal level among Flemish voters. A cordon sanitaire has been in force against Vlaams Belang since the early 1990s, with all other parties agreeing to never make it a part of a coalition government at any level.
Still, Bart De Wever, chair of Flanders’ biggest party, N-VA, held talks with Vlaams Belang following the May elections. He eventually announced that it was impossible to find common ground and that the future Flemish government coalition will be made up of N-VA, Open VLD and CD&V.
The organisers of Sunday’s march – reportedly led by Tomas Boutens, convicted of possession of illegal weapons in 2014 – are not planning to call off the march and are encouraging people to show up on Place d’Espagne, near Central Station, at 14.00. Vlaams Belang chair, Tom Van Grieken, meanwhile, has said that Vlaams Belang has nothing to do with the march and in fact condemn it.
The mayor declined to say why a permit had not been granted, and the police are not commenting further at this time. There is, however, a counter protest planned, gathering at the Congress Column.
There are also major events happening in the centre of town this weekend, including the Comic Strip Festival and Balloon’s Day Parade, Heritage Days and the Wanderlust craft beer festival.