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Protest against police brutality results in dozens of arrests
A demonstration by about 100 people on the Mont des Arts on Sunday went ahead without the permission of the Brussels authorities, with the police eventually moving in and making arrests.
The demonstrators, protesting against perceived injustice in recent cases of alleged police brutality and the deaths of local youths in custody, gathered at the site at around 14.00 on Sunday afternoon after answering a call to gather on Facebook, posted Friday evening.
At the time of the posting, permission had been granted for the demonstration to take place but was later revoked after pressure from interior minister Annelies Verlinden forced Brussels Mayor Philippe Close to do so, on the grounds that the protest’s organiser could not guarantee that no more than 100 protesters would attend.
However, the organisers of the demonstration did not agree with the ban. They announced that they would gather anyway. The police then warned that the organisers that they would be present to intervene if necessary. By the time that the first people began arriving for the demonstration, it was clear that the police had made good on that promise with dozens of police cars and six vehicles armed with water cannons parked nearby.
By 14.30 on Sunday, it was clear that more than 100 people were in attendance and the police, who had contained and tolerated the gathering until then, issued an order for the crowd to disperse. Within half an hour of the announcement, most of the protestors had left the area but some moved onto the square in front of the Central Station to continue the demonstration. Tensions then boiled over with the police moving in, arresting several protestors, and using pepper spray and police dogs to break up the crowd.
Co-organiser of the demonstration, Axel Farkas, condemned the "provocations of the police" and demanded the release of the people arrested. Activist Yassine Boubout, who attended the protest and was pepper-sprayed and arrested, also complained to reporters of the "unprofessional" behaviour of the police. He was released from custody early on Sunday evening.
"The demonstration was peaceful," a police spokesperson responded. "Afterwards, however, there were small groups in the area who tried to walk towards the centre, shouting ‘We’re going to break everything’, while some of the attendees also refused to leave the area. Our people intervened and several arrests were made."
Exactly how many people have been detained is not yet known. Police estimates put the number at a few dozen people, the spokesperson said. Their details will be recorded, after which they will be released.