Brussels police were in riot gear and using water cannons today as protests over the recent terror attacks erupted nearby a memorial. The authorities say the protests are being organized by right-wing extremists and political leaders are condemning the demonstrations.
The Prime Minister of Belgium, Charles Michel, had strong words for the demonstrators according to Reuters.
“It is highly inappropriate that protesters have disrupted the peaceful reflection at the Bourse (stock exchange). I strongly condemn these disturbances.”
Local reports say that there are about 450 protesters clashing with white-helmeted riot police. The authorities are working to protect the country’s stock exchange and nearby plaza, where a tribute to the victims of the March 22 terror attacks has been built.
According to NPR, Brussels had originally planned a “march against fear” for Sunday, but it was cancelled after the Belgian Minister of the Interior made a public appeal. Officials were concerned that police forces have been stretched too thin due to ongoing investigations into the attacks and claimed it would be difficult to provide adequate security. The organizers agreed to cancel, but another protest filled its place.
NPR reporter Melissa Block gave a description of the scene.
“A group of right-wing extremists clad in black have marched to the center of this rally and have basically commandeered it. They have taken over. They’re shouting, ‘It’s because of you,’ meaning the migrants here in Brussels.”
Riot police moving in en made on right wing counter protest in Brussels pic.twitter.com/QOLRZUpmYk
— melissa block (@NPRmelissablock) March 27, 2016
KTLA reports that the protesters carried signs saying things like “F*** ISIS” and the banner “Casuals Against Terrorism.” Some were making the Nazi salute, while others threw punches and liquor bottles.
Brussels mayor, Yvan Mayeur, was also disgusted by the protest, which he described as being organized by people from outside the city.
“I am appalled at what has happened, to see that such scoundrels come here to provoke people at their place of homage.”
The protest comes just five days after the deadliest terror attack in Belgium’s history. The death toll currently stands at 28 (31 including the suicide bombers), and around 300 have been injured. Three coordinated nail bombings hit the city — two at Brussels airport and one in the Maalbeek metro station.
The government has declared a three-day period of mourning, while police forces have scrambled, conducting raids and making arrests in connection, wherever possible.
The terrorist group ISIS, also known as ISIL, took responsibility for the attack.
On a video released Saturday, the militants said, in Dutch, “The attack in Brussels is reaping what you had sown with your own hands… Just as you bomb the Muslims with your F15s, we will fight your people.”
Right-wing, anti-immigrant politicians have been gaining popularity throughout Europe, saying that government decisions to increase the number of Syrian refugees allowed onto the continent have put people in danger.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party suffered a major blow in regional elections, at least partially due to the rising AfD party — a nationalist party that condemns Merkel’s open immigration policies.
Despite the protest, police in Brussels conducted 13 raids in connection to the terrorist attack, taking nine people into questioning, and releasing five after “in-depth” interviews.
[Photo by Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images]