Thousands for Brussels "March against Terror and Hate"

Turn-out was a bit lower than expected for the "March against Terror and Hate" in Brussels on Sunday. The expected number of 15,000 people of more than 160 organisations was not reached, according to police figures. Many participants had taken a flower in order to pay their personal tribute to the victims of the 22 March terror attacks.

The demonstration was originally scheduled for three Sundays ago, but cancelled out of safety concerns. This being said, terror threat level 3 is still in place today, which may have deterred some people.

Emmanuel Foulon, one of the organisers and spokesmen for the event, told reporters that the march aims "to express how the population is one through its diversity". Representatives of various religions walked together below a banner that said "Together in Peace".

Politicians joining

A number of politicians had joined the event, such as Federal Chamber Speaker Siegfried Bracke, Flemish Parliament Speaker Jan Peumans, Employment Minister Kris Peeters, the chairman of the Flemish Christian democrats Wouter Beke and green party head Kristof Calvo.

The march was headed by friends and family of the victims, and by employees of Brussels Airport and the Brussels public transport company MIVB.

Call for "a society that unites"

Among the campaigners was also Alexis Deswaef, the president of the Human Rights League. He said that "today, some want to divide society, or take advantage of dramatic events to impose their ideas, which don't match with the world we want to leave for our children. (...) We really have to avoid any form of stigmatisation - of the Muslim community in the first place."

Deswaef lashed out at Interior Minister Jan Jambon in this respect: "It's outrageous that our minister said that a large part of the Muslim community was dancing when the news of the attacks emerged. You don't drop bombs like this. This is populism exploiting the people's fears and used to divide."

However, the main aim of the demonstration was unite and not to divide, to call for "a society that unites people instead of dividing them". Organisers pointed to the fact that participants were very diverse - both in religion, political beliefs and age.

So, how many people turned up?

The march started around 2PM at the North Station, but there was also an assembling point in Molenbeek. Police estimations were talking about "over 3,000" people starting at the station and another 1,000 in Molenbeek. This resulted in estimations between 4,000 and 5,000.

However, a whole number of people joined the march along the way. Police eventually talked of 7,000, but organisers estimated the number at 10,000. This was still below the expected 15,000.

The two groups merged along the Molenbeek canal to continue to the Beurs and finish at the Fontainas Square, where families of the victims, aid workers and Brussels Airport and MIVB staff address the crowd, around 4PM.

Participants were asked not to bring any bags and to take public transport.