Taking the Belgian State and Brussels Police to court

Next week will be the first day of the trial of the Belgian government and the Brussels police, brought by myself and four others preemptively arrested on 29 September 2010, before and during the major European trade union demonstration in Brussels. That day, about 300 people were arrested, present at this demonstration or on their way to it, just because the police found they looked “alternative”.

I was on the way to the demonstration of the No Border Camp at the Tour & Taxis site, along with a group of clowns from the Rebel Clown Army. I joined them, even though I was not dressed as a clown, because there were already reports circulating of arrests on the way to the demonstration, I thought I would be safer in a group. On the platform of subway station Ribaucourt we were surrounded by police, when asked why they answered only “for your own safety.”

The police closed the metro station, apparently because they were afraid their actions could provoke reactions from onlookers in what I overheard some of them call a “problematic neighbourhood”. We were handcuffed with plastic straps and put in a row, our legs spread. On my question why, I was snarled at if I didn’t have anything better to do than to waste police’s time by demonstrating. Followed by comments about my hair and how it stank and I surely never washed it.

In a police bus, we were taken to the police barracks in Etterbeek, where we are put in a large holding cell. There we were anything but alone, these and other cells are overcrowded with people arrested at or on their way to the demonstration, sometimes very harshly. Apparently, the entire block of the demonstration that was billed as being part of the No Border camp was separated from the rest of the rally by plainclothes agents, using batons and pepper spray.

The rest of the day we spend in this cell, and after being administratively processed in other cells. Until around midnight, when the demonstration had already been disbanded for many hours, when we were first required to be photographed and then in a police bus dropped back near Tour & Taxis.

Only in the weeks afterwards it dawned on me that both the police chief and interior minister thought all of this was completely justifiable. Testimonies in the media about physical and mental violence, for instance by Marianne Maeckelbergh, were met by police with the threat of a libel suit. That there were many witnesses, photographs and video seemed of no importance.

That the police can terrorize people on such a large scale, that this appears to be a planned action against the No Border Camp and anyone who the police deemed part of it. That Interior Minister Annemie Turtelboom’s answer to a parliamentary question about the police action was that it was “necessary, proportionate and effective.” All these things leave me with no other conclusion than that I live in a police state.

Hence my personal reason to join the lawsuit against the Belgian State and the Brussels police. A legal road that start only now, four years after the facts and will probably drag on for several years, if necessary, to the European level.