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Today, at least 330 peaceful activists from Extinction Rebellion have faced disproportionate police violence during a non-violent action against fossil fuel subsidies in Brussels, Belgium. Gathering between Place Jean Rey and Rue Belliard in the so-called EU Quarter during the "EU Open Days" led to an unprecedented response from Belgian police forces.

At 14:00 CEST, 50 protesters gathered at Place Jean Rey where they had registered a peaceful protest which was meant to gather a broad support towards the end of fossil fuel subsidies, which are fuelling the climate crisis. The participants were diverse, including families, children, elderly and young people alike. The protest programme included speeches from MEP Saskia Bricmont (Ecolo) and Olivier de Schutter (Ecolo, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food) and there was no intention to block traffic. People on site testified that forty minutes later, at 14:40, police with riot gears pushed protesters and external speakers to the floor and beat them with sticks. Afterward, police officers shoved peaceful protesters away towards Rue Belliard. This police behaviour towards non-violent protesters exercising their freedom of assembly is illegal and authoritarian.

At the same time, 270 other protestors gathered for a march at the intersection between Rue Belliard and the Avenue des Arts, walking peacefully towards Place Jean Rey. This was both announced and visible as clearly non-violent and peaceful. Protesters were wearing bright colours, playing music and singing in a choir, holding colourful XR flags as well as signs reading "Subsidize the future not the past" and "Stop Fossil Fuel Subsidies". The activists stopped at the beginning of the tunnel Belliard and blockaded the entrance. At 15:30, police deployed one water cannon and several dozens of officers in full riot gear encircling all peaceful protesters. Passerbys exiting the Committee of Regions were blocked in-between. At 16.15, the police started taking activists in for arrests in busses.

The police deployed a watercannon on site, but did not use it. We thank everyone who raised awareness about the risk of the water cannon being used against peaceful protestors.

The use of water cannons against peaceful protesters is seriously concerning, and Extinction Rebellion urges the police to exercise restraint and allow the right to peaceful and non violent protest. Extinction Rebellion demands that the police respects their right to peacefully protest.

For live developments, please follow this thread on X : https://twitter.com/XR_Belgium/status/1786736842676555933

For all photos and videos: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1LNuG16WZ_Vdt_c6so4hAMAi6_sxoGyOY?usp=drive_link

For press questions:

  • Xavier (FR/NL/EN): +31 626 35 96 83
  • Cassandra (NL): +32 477 27 51 30
  • Backup: Alena (FR/EN/DE): +32 491 91 69 21
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XR Brussels (EN)