Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Politicians arrested in Brussels demo agianst ban on demos

Now say what you like about the Vlams Belang, and plenty have plenty to say I have the distinct impression that having the leadership of the largest political party in a country treated like this at a peaceful demnsytration against he ban on demonstrations is overdoing it.

Frank Vanhecke addressing a small crowd of police, before the arrests

Filip Dewinter
Filip Dewinter
Frank Van Hecke

Brussels Journal has some film, I hope to post some later


eulogist said...

Well, what can I say? Very smart play by the Vlaams Belang leadership? The thing was *meant* to run out of hand, of course.

Rather significantly, the demo's original organiser, a German journalist, pulled out a few days beforehand, when it turned out that what he had meant to be a peaceful demonstration was going to be hijacked by neo-nazis and other unsavoury elements. I can't judge whether the Brussels mayor has overreacted by banning it, but under the circumstances I do understand his concern.

Guy Vanhengel (Brussels finance minister) was spot on: "You would expect a 'law and order' party to respect the law...".

SpanishGoth said...

HA - should have known you would be there somehow. No bouncy castles this time though - although they did use tear gas which I thought was slightly excessive. If they wanted tears they could have just checked the weather report

Elaib said...

Couple of points,

First the German chap was not thye organiser. He was brought in late to the orgabnisation and declared, unilaterally, that the demo was off. He did so after Tielemens had banned the rally.

He was never the boss.

Secondly, the rally took place (ha, because of the confusion and road blocks about 60 people cannot be called a rally, they were outnumbered about 3 - 1 by journalists and 10- 1 by police) in Place Luxembourg, a good mile away from where the trouble was.

The VB and other politicians were not part of the rally and never were. They had been given the nod by Brussels police that their demonstration (they described it as a static demonstration) would be acceptable in Rond POint Schumann. It was directed against the mayors ban on the rally. It was purely about the rights of free speech and association, rights I am sure you would uphold. Their demonstration had not, I repeat not, been banned.

Even Franco Frattini the EU's JHA Commissioner said yesterday that the bas was wrong. (Thouh he would not comment on the police over reaction, calling it an internal Belgian matter).

Interestingly, though they had ben given the nod by Brussels police, it was French speaking Liege police that did the arrests, (you an tell by the identifying flashes on their unifiorms).

On general maters of freedom opf Speech in Belgium, even the very leftist International Federation of Journalists has said that Belgian was not a fitr place for the HQ of the EU as it had no serious legal protection of the freedonm of speech.

I was in Place Lux at the time, these pics were taken by a friend, about an hour before the event I was wandering round the square taking pics of the police vehichles and I was approached by a plain clothes chap. He (politely) asked my name, ID and job title. I asked how many police werwe their and he laughed,
"I have no idea, I am secret police, they are normal ones - my guess is a hell of a lot".
So for taking photos, I was questioned by the secret police. Seems a reasonable action don't you think.

If there are bad laws, are you not duty bound to oppose them?
Goth, next time a blow up gag.

eulogist said...

Yeah bu' no bu' yeah bu'...

1. With his Pax Europa organisation, Ulfkotte (the German chap) was one of the three initiators of the demo, the other two being Danish 'Stop Islamiseringen af Danmark' and British 'No Sharia Here'. Ulfkotte had been in dialogue with Vlaams Belang, who provided him with help and advice. When Ulfkotte/Pax Europa pulled out, SIAD and NSH went ahead anyway. As did VB, which continued to provide practical support to the organisers.

2. The demo had been banned - not only by the mayor of Brussels, but also by the ordinary court of justice and, in appeal, by the Council of State, both of which approved the mayor's decision. Giving it a slightly different name and assembling at the end of the planned route instead of at its starting point does not make it a different demo. VB seems to be the only party involved that holds their do was separate and/or had been given the nod. The mayor, the police and the Belgian media seem to be convinced of the opposite. Admittedly I was not there, but somehow I am a bit suspicious of the VB version.

3. I agree that the Brussels police and autorities are rather jittery when it comes to demonstrations, especially when they take place in the European quarter. They have been since protests of European farmers against a reform of the CAP ran seriously out of hand somewhere in the seventies. But they do tend to overreact regarding preventative police presence (although personally I have always been treated correctly and in the appropriate language).

3. VB contends that they were arrested by French-speaking police from Liège, suggesting this was done deliberately. But on the videos on their website police are clearly speaking both French and Dutch. And their overpresence aside, the police cannot be blamed for bringing in police from other cities - especially if they (rightly or wrongly) expect riots.

4. With the benefit of hindsight at least, there may have been no need to ban the demonstration. In fact it turned out to be counterproductive, as it provided the VB leadership with an excellent propaganda platform. And they knew how to use it, as I am pretty much convinced they provoked/staged/simulated the struggling seen on the videos. E.g. VRT video pictures show how VB president Vanhecke literally throws himself amidst the policemen just before he is arrested. The VB website does not show that first part.

5. From a free speech perspective, the authorities' purpose should always be to allow any demo and protect the demonstrators, if necessary with the aid of a large police force. On the other hand, there are of course limits to what the police can do, in which case (and only then) there is no other option than to ban the demo. As I said earlier, I can't judge how serious the risk of things running out of hand was in this case. What I do know is that the commitment of SIAD to free speech does not seem to prevent it from calling for banning the Quran. And VB's commitment to freedom? Oh well...

The Aunt said...

Demonstrating against a ban on the demonstration you've helped foment sounds like an exercise in political sophistry and headline-grabbing to me.

Hey, did UKIP ever get their bouncy castle bulldozer back?