Regular readers will remember the memorial demonstration in downtown Brussels on September 11th, 2007. Acting under orders from the Socialist mayor Freddy Thielemans, Brussels police behaved like thugs towards a number of peaceful demonstrators — including members of Vlaams Belang — who were roughed up, thrown to the ground, handcuffed, and arrested.
Now, almost two years later, Vlaams Belang has finally been vindicated: the official police oversight commission agrees that the mayor and the police acted wrongly, both in banning the demonstration ahead of time, and in their handling of demonstrators during the event itself.
Here’s a report from the Vlaams Belang website, as translated by our Flemish correspondent VH:
“Committee P” agrees with Vlaams Belang
After a demonstration against the Islamization of Europe was prohibited — at the request of the Communauté Musulmane de Belgique [Committee of Belgian Muslims] — by the Brussels PS [Parti Socialiste] Mayor Freddy Thielemans on September 11, 2007, a peaceful demonstration in Schuman Square in Brussels was violently beaten down.
In its report, Committee P, which controls the functioning of the police services, came down hard on the (French) police officers and the Brussels mayor, and agreed with Vlaams Belang down the line.
According to Committee P, the demonstration ban had made it difficult for the police to negotiate to a peaceful end of the event. Moreover, the “very poor preparation for this event,” according to the Committee, was due to the fact that Mayor Thielemans banned any contact [by the police] with the organizers.
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The same mayor on the day itself — in his capacity as administrative head of police — was also pushing for a speedy arrest of the demonstrators, which is exactly what happened, after 3 minutes and 18 seconds. It is also striking that only French-speaking agents from Namur and Liège were let loose on the demonstrators and gave them orders in French, while the platoons from Antwerp and Ghent remained passive.
All these factors led, according to Committee P, to a chaotic and uncoordinated “action by the police, although they were present with a force majeure of no less than 826 men”. The consequences of all of this are well-known: there was “excessive violence” used; Frank Vanhecke was thrown to the ground up to three times and grabbed in between the legs; Filip Dewinter in this way nearly ended up under the wheels of a police van and had a can of pepper spray pushed in his face; a journalist was bitten by a police dog, and so on.
The approach afterwards in the prison complex was also criticized, among other reasons because of the humiliating treatment of the female Parliamentarians, who were forced to take off their bras (“unnecessary” according to the Committee).
Committee P reached the conclusion that “disciplinary and other measures” should be taken. In a comment, Filip De Man, member of Parliament for Vlaams Belang and a member of the counseling committee P, made it clear that Vlaams Belang is quite satisfied with this report and expressed the hope that next time, however, Vlaams Belang will be allowed to exercise their democratic rights in Brussels.