During the BLM riots in Brussels the weekend before last, the municipal police failed to act in a timely manner against the rioters’ violence and destruction. According to one disgruntled police officer, this was because they had been ordered by their superiors to hold back.
A police officer says, “We were hit with rocks, but the order from the mayor to charge didn’t come”. Close reacts, “That’s ridiculous; that’s defamation.”
by Jonas Legge
June 8, 2020
The attack against the police, the looting of businesses, and the destruction of public property this Sunday, at the end of the Black Lives Matter protest in Brussels, has caused indignation, anger, but also incomprehension.
How to explain that the police did not intervene earlier? “It’s simple, we didn’t receive the order. We had to wait 1 hour and 30 minutes!” exclaims a police officer of the Brussels-Ixelles district, who wishes to remain anonymous.
“Before the demonstration, we had received the order to not implement controls. Then, when we were hit with rocks and we confirmed the material destruction, such as traffic lights and traffic signs, we could not act. However, there the means to intervene was already in place. In normal times, we would have charged, but the order did not come… We remained in a defensive position: one leg in front and the baton in hand,” our source relates. “Then they sent us to play hide-and-seek: That is, we received the order to proceed to a street, except the mayhem was happening a few blocks further away. The goal: To avoid confronting the demonstrators. I really don’t understand what was going on in the heads of our decision-makers at that moment, because we could have easily arrested the rioters.”
The decision-makers that our contact brings up, who are they? “The mayor of Brussels,” exclaims the police officer. “It is he who gave the instructions this Sunday, it’s he who supervised the operation from the crisis center with the area chief. Today, he says he reacted in time. But on the ground we had to wait 1 hour and 30 minutes after the first incidents before we could finally intervene. We felt abandoned. We were obliged to let it go when we were hit with every object that was in the hands of the ‘people destroying things’. Today, several colleagues are injured due to the paving stones they were hit with.”
Our source indicates that, like her colleagues, she expected the protest to end in mayhem. She nevertheless considers that there were enough police on the ground. “It’s just that the manner in which we were utilized is incomprehensible. Morally, it is hard to go through.”
Finally, this police officer deplores the fact that the residents and merchants of the quarter were themselves also neglected. “Imagine: They call the police and more than an hour later, the police are still not there. They don’t understand this absence of reaction, this abandonment.”
The police union SLFP has filed a notice of strike for the Brussels Capital-Ixelles police district, which was deployed to cover the protest that involved about 10,000 people. “We stated that the risk analysis for Sunday did not hold water. The tolerance thresholds concerning violence against the police were sufficiently determined,” reacted Vincent Houssin, president of the union.
“Yesterday, 28 cops were injured. We turn here to the administrative authorities, who hold an important obligation and should assume responsibility for the application of the law,” he adds. According to the union, the protest should never have been held.
Close: “I formally refute”
Contacted by us, Philippe Close, the mayor of Brussels, asserts that this absence of order is “false”. “I formally refute this. After the incidents at Porte de Naur, we gave instructions to charge directly. I am ready to confront the point of view of anyone. We are not under a dictatorship; I can understand the critics. But I strongly dislike this process of testifying anonymously.”
The socialist adds that he was at the side of the corps commander from 3pm to 9pm, and that he therefore took into account everything that occurred in making timely decisions. “How could you imagine that I would prefer that windows be broken and police injured? That’s ridiculous; it is defamation.”
Ilse Van de Keer, spokesperson for the police zone, asserts that the corps commander gave the order to intervene and charge from the first incidents.