After mass riots in Brussels on Wednesday evening that saw frightening scenes in the Belgian capital, police confirmed that 20 police officers were slightly injured and two female officers were taken to hospital, one of them in serious condition. Police also arrested 112 people, of which 30 are minors, SCEPTR reported.
Earlier in the evening, it was already clear that the protest for Ibrahima Barrie, a 23-year-old Black man, who died after collapsing at a police station, was about to escalate. Barrie was arrested with ecstasy pills ins his possession and an initial autopsy indicate that he died due to a heart attack, but protesters with Black Lives Matter banners gathered in the hundreds if not thousands following his death.
For hours, rioters aimed their anger at police officers, police vehicles, and police stations. Car windows got shattered, and several police vehicles were set on fire.
Brussels, the capital of the European Union.
Police on the run for African immigrants, this is an attack on the nation, this is an attack on our society. pic.twitter.com/Jd2YkuLJ5i
— Gefira Foundation (@Gefira_org) January 14, 2021
The piercing speech delivered by Barrie’s family lawyer Alexis Deswaef did not help either. In the press and during the demonstration, he made serious accusations against the police.
“If Ibrahima had not been Black, he would not be dead now,” he said.
Various images of the protest show that the streets of Brussels looked like a war zone, with hundreds of protesters occupying the area for hours.
In one video, protesters can be seen setting a police station on fire.
— NewsBlog | breaking (@NBbreaking) January 13, 2021
Before the demonstration, people were also encouraged to participate via the Instagram account ‘Bruxelles Story’.The account is also critical of the police services. A man in one of the videos called the police “killers.” The video has gained more than 52,000 views.
Days before the demonstration, the question also arose whether it was advisable to allow such a protest in a time of rising numbers of new COVID-19 cases.
Images shared on social media showed how in one of the side streets, a group of a dozen police officers in law enforcement clothing and with shields and batons was attacked by rioters.
Part of the platoon strategically withdrew, but one of the officers ended up on the ground. Dozens of rioters hit the cop lying on the ground mercilessly and dealt her several hard kicks in the back.
— Based Finland ?? (@Based_Finland) January 13, 2021
Officers described that one of their colleagues was almost lynched by the rioters.
“The injured colleagues do not face life-threatening injuries but they are serious. The colleague mentioned in the report was indeed injured during service. She is now in the hospital,” said the spokeswoman for the Brussels North police zone.
The Wednesday demonstration took place with the consent of Mayor Emir Kir. He had permitted an on-site demonstration, but not with so many participants.
According to the police spokeswoman, the vast majority of the demonstrators left the rally around 5 pm and the event “generally proceeded quietly under the supervision of officers.”
Yet, the crowd had already caused several incidents during the event. They threw projectiles at the police and police station and damaged two police vehicles. At around 5:30 pm, a group of about 50 to 100 protesters lingered in the area, causing various incidents and damage.
“At around 8 pm, peace was restored in the entire area,” added the police spokesman.
However, on Twitter, a man posted a video of a crowd setting a police station on fire.
“No peace, without war,” he added.
The Brussels-North police office summarized some of the incidents, which included six damaged police vehicles, bins set on fire, various damaged shops, and damage to one of the police stations.
Title image: Rioters throw stones toward a police office in the Belgium capital, Brussels, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, at the end of a protest asking for authorities to shed light on the circumstances surrounding the death of a 23-year-old Black man who was detained by police last week in Brussels. Police in Brussels made more than 100 arrests after a demonstration in Brussels over the death of a young Black man while in police custody turned violent Wednesday. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)