Culture-Enriching Riots in Brussels

A “youth” named Ibrahima Barrie became the George Floyd of Belgium last weekend when he died in police custody. As it happens, Mr. Barrie had been detained by Brussels police for (what else?) violating COVID-19 restrictions.

The ensuing riots did not specifically involve Black Lives Matter, but they followed a similar template. The commotion peaked on Wednesday with the usual burning of cars and throwing things at the police. At one point a police station was set on fire. In the midst of all the brouhaha the rioters happened to encounter the motorcade of King Philippe, and there were some tense moments before the king and his entourage managed to speed away from the scene and return to his castle.

This video about the riots is not subtitled, but Vlad has annotated it with information about what was happening at various moments during the unrest. The violence continued into Thursday, if I am not mistaken.

Many thanks to Gary Fouse for translating this article from the Flemish daily De Morgen:

Riot after a demonstration for deceased arrestee: Protesters throw stones, water cannon deployed

More than 500 demonstrators gathered this afternoon at the police headquarters where 23-year-old Ibrahima B, died Saturday after his arrest. The young man was earlier arrested in the area of the Brussels-North station. At first the protest was peaceful, but around 4pm the atmosphere became worse. Protesters threw stones and set fires; riot police are at the scene en masse and have deployed a water cannon.

January 13, 2021

More than 500 people gathered to demonstrate at the police headquarters, although only 100 people were allowed to gather. Just about 100 people were stopped by police before the beginning of the demonstration. About 400 demonstrators are reported to have gathered at police headquarters on the Brabant Street.

Friends, family members, and sympathizers of the 23-year-old demanded clarity about his death. Around 4pm, the atmosphere worsened. Stones and fireworks were thrown at the police, and demonstrators shouted, “Police, murderers.” In the tumult, a window of a police car was destroyed. Here and there, small fires were set.

Several rioters moved about in a cat and mouse game with police to the Liedtsplein [square] in Schaarbeek. They smashed the windows of a police post and set fire to the office, according to Het Laatse Nieuws. The atmosphere is still very turbulent, and riot police are at the scene en masse.

The riot police are massively present in the area of the North Station. The water cannon has been used several times against the demonstrators. Officers initially tried to send the demonstrators home, but their calls received little in the way of response. The organizers of the demonstration also unsuccessfully did everything they could to calm things down. One youth of 17 was taken to the hospital with injuries. According to witnesses, he was hit by police with a nightstick, reported Het Laatste Nieuws. According to Belga, one person was injured after a fall. At the moment, nothing has been communicated by the police concerning arrests.

King Philippe

Noteworthy: Close by the riot was the car of King Philippe, recognizable by the license plate “1”. A police source confirmed to Het Laatste Nieuws that the king was in the car. The car was protected by the police and was not pelted by protesters. According to the press agency EPA the vehicle of King Philippe was en route from his workplace in Brussels to Laken Castle.

“Crucial Moments”

The 23-year-old Ibrahima B. was arrested Saturday evening about 7pm at the North Station. According to the prosecutor’s office, police there stopped a group of people who had gathered and thus were not following the Corona regulations. Ibrahima reportedly ran and was arrested after a chase. The young man was subsequently brought to police headquarters on Brabant Street, where he reportedly collapsed. The police reportedly called an ambulance, which took the young man to the hospital. There, Ibrahima reportedly died around 8:20 pm.

According to the family’s lawyer, the police reportedly let the young man lie on the ground for five minutes, writes Bruzz. “The several minutes without care were crucial moments in which Ibrahima’s life could have been saved. The officers let him die,” says the attorney Alexis Deswaef. “That is unacceptable. Unfortunately, we see that it is no exception in Brussels.”

“The family of the deceased young man and their counselor met this morning with the King’s Prosecutor to obtain answers to a number of their questions,” says the prosecutor’s spokesperson, “and to be assured that all means have been and will be utilized to provide clarity about what occurred.”

The investigation into the death is in the hands of the Investigation Service of Committee P. Meanwhile, Standing Committee P has opened an investigation but limited the process of the notification of the family of the victim. They were only informed hours after the fact, and reportedly received conflicting explanations.

“The Standing Committee P came to this decision on the basis of what appeared about this in the media,” says spokesperson Nancy Van Barel. “Should elements emerge in the course of this criminal investigation that suggest one or another non-unlawful shortcoming, the Standing Committee P will also investigate this further.”

This report is supplemented with the latest developments.

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