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Protest against sprawling cafe terraces and commercialisation of public space

08:42 05/07/2023

An action group called Free 54 has condemned the commercialisation of public spaces in Brussels, staging a sit-in at Place Sainte Catherine in protest against what they describe as an encroachment of terraces.

About 100 people gathered for the action, Bruzz reports.

“We feel that this place is becoming less and less ours,” the group said. “The squares and pavements in our city have been taken over by terraces, public benches are scarce and drinking alcohol in public spaces or on the streets is forbidden.”

Free 54 accuses Brussels city council of giving “people who have money a privileged place in the city”. The group said it wanted to reclaim public spaces for ordinary people, rather than businesses.

In 2015, former Brussels alderman for economy and employment Marion Lemesre (MR) allowed restaurants on Place Sainte Catherine to expand their terraces.

“Lemesre pushed the policy through, promising to boost the local economy,” the activists said.

“Since then, several independent restaurants on the square have been replaced by restaurant chains and the terraces have also continued to grow. Public benches were removed and police forces stigmatised youth by carrying out regular checks on the square.”

Of the 14 original public benches, just a handful are still standing.

Written by Helen Lyons