Authorities in Belgium have made over 100 arrests of right-wing, anti-Islam and anti-racist protestors in the Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussels following tense confrontations on Saturday, as reported by Euronews.
A white Audi car, thought to be driven by right-wing protesters, was filmed running down a Muslim woman in the street, as reported by Press TV. [Update: the drivers of the car have been reported as Molenbeek residents Redouane D. and Mohamed B. Both are thought to have taken turns driving during Saturday’s incident, Redouane before the collision with the victim, and Mohamed after. Reports indicate that both drugs and alcohol may have been a factor, according to La Libre.]
Molenbeek has become notorious for being the home community of the organizers of the March 22 Brussels airport and metro attacks, as reported by RT. On concerns of follow-up acts of terrorism and angry demonstrations staged last weekend, protests were banned in Molenbeek on Saturday by the Brussels regional administration. Water cannons were reported to have been used by authorities to clear streets during previous protests.
Despite the ban on protests, a group said to number “up to 400” right-wing demonstrators, described as being members of “football fan groups” descended on Molenbeek on Saturday to voice their displeasure with the residents of the neighborhood, reported to be comprised of large number of Muslims.
“Considering what happened here last Sunday,” a Molenbeek resident on hand to show support with the anti-racists was quoted, “with extreme right-wing people and the police, we thought it would be important to be here to denounce this. Especially after all that happened, we should not fall into hatred, not give into terror, and not give into fascists on the streets.”
Shouting “This is our country!” and holding banners, the uproar caused by the right-wing protesters caused Molenbeek shopkeepers to close up for the day. They were later met by local residents, described as being of “North African” origin, reportedly shouting, “Let’s kill the Nazis.” Two of the right-wingers were said to have later been found carrying Molotov cocktails.
Over 200 police officers wearing riot gear were said to have to respond to the Molenbeek protests, in riot vans, on horseback, and with a helicopter offering support from above. The majority of those arrested were reported to have been released before nightfall on Saturday, with only about 20 being held by police overnight.
At one point during the riots, a white Audi, thought to be driven by right-wingers [Update: the drivers of the car have been confirmed as local residents driving under the influence], was driven toward a “police cordon,” causing several officers to draw their weapons and aim at the vehicle. The car then drove quickly away, where it hit a woman wearing a hijab. She can be seen first being lifted onto the hood of the car in available footage, and then falling to the ground, appearing to be driven over by the car’s front right tire, as the horrified shrieks of onlookers can be heard.
The woman was reported to have sustained “injuries” but to have remained conscious through the ordeal and to have been released from a hospital after receiving treatment on Saturday.
Separate from Saturday’s demonstrations in Molenbeek, a group of anti-Islam protesters gathered at the Bourse square, located in the center of Brussels. Several dozen anti-fascist demonstrators were forcibly removed after gathering in “condemnation” of the right-wingers who had protested in the square earlier in the day.
This morning, the first passenger flight took off from the Brussels’ airports since the March 22 bombing attacks, as reported by the Belfast Telegraph. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the bombings, which claimed the lives of 32 — 16 at the airport and 16 on a subway train — and left 270 others injured.
This first flight to depart from Brussels was scheduled to land in Faro, Portugal. Two other flights are expected to leave from the Belgian city today: one to Athens, Greece, and another to Turin, Italy. The airport is expected to be operating at 20 percent of its capacity again by Monday, equating to the processing of 800 passengers per hour.
Security was reported to remain high at the airport, with authorities performing spot checks on cars outside the facility and travelers’ identifications and luggage being screened before being permitted entry into terminals.
[Photo by AP Photo/Olivier Matthys]