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Protesters battle police after rally for Ibrahima turns violent
A rally on Wednesday in memory of a 23-year-old Brussels man who died on Saturday night after being arrested turned violent when a section of the crowd clashed with police on Rue de Brabant, not far from the Brussels-North train station, in Schaerbeek.
A crowd of around 500 protesters, according to final police figures, gathered at the request of the family of the deceased man, known only as Ibrahima in news reports, at around 15.00.
An hour later, as the tension between members of the crowd and police officers attending the rally escalated, around 100 protesters broke from the main group and began launching projectiles at the police and vandalising the area around Place Liedts, many shouting “police, murderers”.
The police station where Ibrahima was held was also targeted and a fire was started. Six police vehicles were damaged, along with a tram and a bus shelter. A total of five ambulances were called to the scene. One protester and four police officers were taken to hospital. None of the injures sustained was life-threatening.
At around 17.40, a motorcade including a car taking King Philippe from the Royal Palace in central Brussels to his residence in Laeken, was also briefly caught up in the unrest. The king’s car was held up behind the police cordon keeping the protesters from advancing and was in no danger during the short delay, although stones thrown from the crowd reached his car. A royal spokesperson later revealed that the king had said he "did not feel unsafe”.
By 18.00, after being forced back towards the original starting site of the protest, police managed to regain control. However, despite most of the crowd dispersing, tensions continued to simmer, and officers remained on patrol at the scene in large numbers. Smaller groups of angry protesters were reportedly still being pursued by police in other areas of Schaerbeek at around 19.30.
"We are doing everything possible to restore calm," said a police spokesman in the Brussels-North area on Wednesday evening. The police later confirmed that 112 people were arrested, including 30 minors.
The initial, peaceful rally had been organised in protest at the death of Ibrahima, who died after being arrested by police on Saturday night after a fleeing an intervention near the Brussels North train station.
He was allegedly part of a group approached by officers for contravening coronavirus restrictions. Ibrahima fled the scene, was arrested and reportedly suffered a heart attack in custody. After being resuscitated, the suffered a second heart attack and died in hospital the early hours of Sunday morning.
Many of the protesters on Wednesday were demanding the truth about Ibrahima's death, claiming that he had been the victim of police violence.
A police investigation into Ibrahima’s death in under way.