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Extinction Rebellion: hundreds arrested in Brussels

Belgian police used water cannon that is legal here as well as pepper spray against hundreds of climate protesters demonstrating near the royal palace in Brussels on Saturday.  Hundreds of demonstrators were arrested.

The protesters form part of Extinction Rebellion and are calling for the declaration of a climate emergency.  Hundreds of protesters gathered on the Koningsplein near the royal palace of Brussels and occupied it on Saturday afternoon.  Organisers speak of 1,000 people.  The police say the figure was 500. The demonstrators had wanted to occupy the square for 24 hours, but around 7PM the police kettled demonstrators, made arrests and forced people who had been kettled, including according to some sources ordinary passers-by, to pay an on-the-spot fine.

Earlier in the day a group of a dozen demonstrators penetrated into the gardens of the royal palace.  They too were arrested.  

Extinction Rebellion’s Gert-Jan Vanaken: “We took a conscious decision to break the law, but in a careful way.  We are stepping out of our comfort zone and are asking King Filip to do the same and declare a climate emergency”.

King Filip didn’t meet the demonstrators on Saturday, but there were contacts with people close to him earlier in the week. Gert-Jan Vanaken: “It went well and officials sympathised with what we represent.”

“There’s been a lot of thinking in line with present accepted boundaries.  There was reference to the king’s neutral position.  We want to show that ordinary citizens are prepared to go beyond the usual boundaries. We are calling on the king to step out of his comfort zone and declare an emergency.”