Press release: huge, peaceful Royal Rebellion met by brutally violent police response

Children and families pepper-sprayed and water-cannoned, as over 400 arrested for protesting peacefully.

Brussels, October 13 – 1,000 people of all ages gathered in Place Royale/Koningsplein yesterday (October 12), to allow people to discuss solutions to the disastrous climate and environmental collapse. The event was supposed to last for 24 hours. However, it was marred by extraordinary police violence, as families were pepper-sprayed and water-cannoned. Over 400 people were arrested.

A spokesperson from Extinction Rebellion Belgium said: “The Royal Rebellion was a huge moment for the movement to stop climate breakdown. While the Belgian state fails to deal with the climate emergency, hundreds of people stepped in to discuss solutions at our peaceful people's assemblies. However, we were met with an extraordinarily brutal and dangerous response from the police, who water-cannoned and pepper-sprayed families. A two-year-old child was pepper-sprayed in the face - their behaviour was reckless and completely unacceptable. The message is clearly to discourage citizens to self-organize in public spaces.”

Timeline of the Royal Rebellion

13:00: Extinction Rebellion Belgium sets up a welcome point on Place Royale (Koningsplein), as permitted by the police.

13:40: With access to Rue Royale (Koningsstraat) and Place de Palais (Paleizenplein)—the intended location of the action—blocked by the police, Extinction Rebellion Belgium decides to conduct the action on Place Royale.

14:00-14:15: Vehicles arrive on Place Royale carrying equipment and supplies, including tents for food, art, and wellbeing. The square is blocked to traffic. People gather and begin to participate in People's Assemblies. A large pink sailboat named after the royal children (Emmanuel, Elisabeth, Elenore and Gabriel) arrives on the square and is parked adjacent to the church of Saint Jacques-sur-Coudenberg.

15:40: The police ask Extinction Rebellion Belgium to retreat from the tram lines in Place Royale.

16:00: A group of around 100 people attempts to enter the garden of the Royal Palace of Brussels. Some of the group make it into the garden and begin a People's Assembly there. The majority is quickly placed under administrative arrest.

16:40: The boat on Place Royale is moved, adjacent to the junction with Rue de la Régence (Regentschapstraat). Extinction Rebellion Belgium begin to discuss in People's Assemblies whether or not to retreat from the tram lines.

17:20 (approx.): The police demand that Extinction Rebellion Belgium vacate Place Royale entirely. Extinction Rebellion Belgium request time for the People's Assemblies to reach a decision.

17:40: The police begin to violently clear Place Royale using a water cannon, pepper spray, batons, riot shields, and dogs. As Extinction Rebellion is non-violent, there is no active resistance. People’s Assemblies continue, eventually being dispersed with the water cannon and pepper spray. Most of the people remaining on the square are kettled (corralled) by the police and arrested.

Police violence

A two-year-old was pepper sprayed in the face well outside of the occupied Place Royale/Koningsplein. Source: twitter.com/str8_bananas/status/1183066493837291520

Police firing water cannons on a people’s assembly: Source: twitter.com/johnhyphen/status/1183103088401551360

A spokesperson from Extinction Rebellion Belgium continued: “In spite of the brutal assault on citizens organising in public space to try to prevent the worst effects of climate breakdown, Extinction Rebellion Belgium remains unbowed. We will continue to mobilise and grow until the Belgian state meets our demands: to declare a climate and ecological emergency, to phase out fossil fuels by 2025, and to establish a Citizens' Assembly to decide on a way out of this situation.”

Brussels declared a climate and ecological emergency on 23rd September 2019.


This press release was amended on Thursday 17th October, 2019 to correct inaccuracies in the timeline.

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