Brussels plunged into chaos as Black Lives Matter protest turns to riots

Photo: AP Police attend to burning trash and broken windows on a shopping street after a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Brussels.

Police in Brussels detained 150 people and fired a water cannon to quell unrest after a Black Lives Matter protest that drew thousands of people on Sunday.

About 10,000 persons of all ages and origins assembled on Sunday afternoon at the Place Poelaert in Brussels to protest against police brutality against people of colour and, generally, racism, according to an early tally by the capital police. What was initially supposed to be a peaceful protest, it rapidly devolved into a riot as people hurled bricks through luxury-store windows and other buildings before looting them.

Police fired tear gas and used a water cannon to disperse about a hundred protesters in a central part of Brussels. Video on social media showed youths smashing shop windows.

The city mayor, Philippe Close, blamed the violence on “delinquents” and noted that the people who demonstrated earlier in the day did so calmly.

The multiracial crowd that demonstrated earlier filled a large square in front of the city’s main courthouse.Protesters held up white roses and placards decrying racism. “You think you are tired of hearing about racism? We are tired of experiencing it” read a cardboard placard held up by a young black woman.

Belgium media RTBF reported that people also gathered in the cities of Anvers and Gand, where demonstrators observed a silence of 8 minutes and 46 seconds. That corresponds to the length of time that prosecutors say George Floyd was pinned to the ground under a white Minneapolis police officer’s knee.

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