During the BLM riots in Brussels, the municipal police failed to act in a timely manner against violence and destruction wrought by protesters. According to one disgruntled police officer, this was because t hey had been ordered by their superiors to stand down.
Belgian daily La Libre reported that an officer had complained about the danger they had faced. “We were hit with rocks, but the order from the mayor to charge didn’t come”.
The attack against the police, the looting of businesses, and the destruction of public property at the end of the Black Lives Matter protest in Brussels on June 7, has caused indignation, anger, but also incomprehension.
Why did the police did not intervene earlier? “It’s simple, we didn’t receive the order. We had to wait 1 hour and 30 minutes!” a police officer of the Brussels-Ixelles district, who wished to remain anonymous, complained
“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,” the source said.
“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.”
And who are the decision-makers? “The mayor of Brussels,” exclaimed the police officer. “It is he who gave the instructions on 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.”
The source indicated that it was expected that the protest would end in mayhem. Nevertheless, there were enough police on the ground to prevent just that. “It’s just that the manner in which we were utilized is incomprehensible. Morally, it is hard to go through.”
Finally, this police officer deplored 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,” said Vincent Houssin, president of the union.
“Some 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 added. According to the union, the protest should never have been held.
Contacted by the daily, Philippe Close, the mayor of Brussels, asserted 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 mayor added that he had accompanied the corps commander. “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, said that the corps commander gave the order to intervene and charge from the “first incidents” but officers on the ground said it was not true.