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Federal PM condemns Sunday’s violence on the streets of Brussels

The Federal Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Flemish liberal) has condemned Sunday’s violence and vandalism on the streets of Brussels. Trouble flared towards the end of a hitherto peaceful demonstration by around 35,000 protesters against the coronavirus measures. Mr De Croo told journalists “Demonstrating is allowed, but violence is completely unacceptable. This is criminal behaviour and is repugnant”. Mr De Croo added that we currently have just one aim: to fight the virus “Fighting each other is the last thing we need”. 

Three police officers and one demonstrator were injured in Sunday’s violence. The damage to property was greater still. 6 police vehicles were damaged, and a police scooter set on fire. Public buildings shops and private vehicles that were parked in the area where the disturbance took place were also damaged during the trouble. 

45 people were apprehended, 42 of whom preventatively, which meant that they could be held for no more than 12 hours. The other three will be questioned on suspicion of criminal offences. 2 are suspected of armed rebellion as they are accused of having pelted the police with missiles. The other is suspected of having vandalised a car and buildings.

“This kind of violence is repugnant”

Mr De Croo told journalists “We live in a free country and demonstrating is allowed”.

"There is freedom of expression, but it is unacceptable that a demonstration turns violent, certainly when that violence is directed towards the police. It is the police that in these difficult times is doing everything to ensure people’s safety. This is why this kind of violence is absolutely repugnant”.

"At the moment it’s all hands-on deck, in sectors such as health care”.

"If a demonstration degenerates in this way it has nothing to do with freedom or the debate about whether vaccination is good or not. It is just criminal behaviour”.

The Federal PM went on to say that he understands that we have been in challenging times for the almost two years now.

"I understand that there is this feeling of disappointment among many, I feel it too. We hadn’t expected that we would have to deal with the pandemic in this way this autumn. It’s at times like these that we should be supporting and listening to one another based on correct information not based on the disinformation that so often is doing the rounds”.  

“We shouldn't let ourselves become divided by an extremely small group that tries to abuse the doubts that some have. We currently have just one goal: to fight the virus together. Fighting each other is the last thing we need”.

Meanwhile, the Federal Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne (Flemish liberal) said that the government should give a signal to those that protested peacefully that they are “being taken seriously”. He added that it is important to listen, but only if arguments are based on facts and not disinformation. 

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