See this post for a disturbing video of today’s events.
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Try the EU method!
Note: The earliest reports are at the bottom of this post.
Final update 9:39 am EDT
Now that this story has made it to the MSM, I’m closing live-blogging. When I get audio-visual material and/or transcripts, I’ll compose separate posts.
Many thanks to the readers who helped me, and to the CVF contingent in Brussels.
Update 9:03 am EDT
The English-language MSM has picked it up now. This is an AP story from The International Herald Tribune:
Police arrest 2 far-right Belgian leaders at anti-Islam 9/11 protest
Police arrested two leaders of a Belgian far-right party Tuesday for staging an illegal protest against the “Islamization of Europe,” six years to the day after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Police scuffled with some of the 200 people who converged on two squares in the EU district of Brussels to protest against what they perceived as the rise of Islam as a significant political force across Europe. Officers handcuffed two leaders of the far-right Flemish Interest Party, which is very critical of Muslim immigrants, and took them away in police vans.
Protesters sought to use the Sept. 11 anniversary to point out that Islam threatens democracy and the rule of law in Europe.
The demonstration was initially planned by Stop Islamization of Europe, a loose alliance with roots in Germany, Britain and Denmark, which had predicted that 20,000 people would come to Brussels from all over Europe.
Brussels Mayor Freddy Thielemans banned the protest last month, calling SIOE an inflammatory group and its proposed demonstration a threat to public order. An appeals court upheld the ban Aug. 29.
Only 200 or so protesters showed up Tuesday for a protest lasting only 30 minutes. The demonstrators faced more than 100 police, backed up by water cannons and helicopters, who closed off streets around the EU headquarters.
“We support the goals of the demonstration to protest against the lack of freedom of expression in this country,” said Frank Vanhecke, the head of the Flemish Interest Party, before he was bundled off to the police station. “And we also we fully agree that the rise of Islam in Europe poses a risk to our values.”
Update 8:48 am EDT
SD sends another amended machine translation, this one from the French. I amended it a bit further:
Around fifty of people were questioned in the EU district of Brussels within the framework of the prohibited demonstration against “the Islamization of Europe”.
Among those questioned are the president of Vlaams Belang, Frank Vanhecke and the leader of this extremist party in the Flemish Parliament, Filip Dewinter.
These are administrative arrests, but nevertheless “muscular”. Some of those questioned resisted, according to the police, who were mobilized in force. Handcuffed by means of “colsons” [?], they were taken along by van. The police position in the EU district (Luxemburg Square and Schuman Square) and in the underground area of the STIB subway, is important. On the spot however, one counted more journalists that demonstrators. This demonstration had been prohibited by the mayor of Brussels, with prohibition confirmed by several court orders.
Update 8:39 am EDT
The latest word from the field:
I just got a call from Flyboy, and he reports that the demo is over. Marchers who started at Luxemburg Square were prevented from reaching Schuman Square, which is where all the arrests took place. He has video, photos, and interviews, including footage of Vlaams Belang members being beaten to the ground and arrested.
Neither he nor any of the people with him (including Paul Belien and Aeneas) were arrested. The conclusion seems to be that the members of Vlaams Belang were specifically targeted for arrest.
I hope to have some of the visual material before long.
Update 8:31 am EDT
Reader AT sends this link to a webcam at the Grand Palace.
Update 8:23 am EDT
I haven’t been able to find any news of this on the web in English, but our Swedish correspondent SD just sent his amended machine translation of an item from Brussel Nieuws (further amendations by me):
Brussels — The organizers of the prohibited anti-Islam meeting have this midday tried to demonstrate in Luxemburg Square. But the police force of Brussels arrested the participators systematically. The Vlaams Belang protests in the meantime in Schuman Square against the meeting prohibition.
The police force is massively present in the European Union district to prevent riots. The participators do not get the chance to demonstrate in Luxemburg Square. As soon as they appear they are immediately arrested. Also the foreign press is clearly visible, present on the square. Of the expected thousands of participators is little talk: in Luxemburg Square about 200 people collected, in Schuman Square about ten — especially members of the Vlaams Belang. They protest against the meeting prohibition by Brussels mayor Freddy Thielemans (PS). He prohibited the demonstration because security could not be definitely assured. Vlaams Belang leaders Frank Vanhecke and Philip Dewinter were this midday arrested in Schuman Square and were taken away by the police force.
In spite of a prohibition by some of the organizers of the movement “Stop the Islamisation of Europe” (SIOE), their followers have nevertheless come down on 11 September to Brussels. The activists say they want stop the invasion of Islamic customs into Europe. Of the organizers, German Udo Ulfkotte from Pax Europe officially distanced himself last week from the event.
Update 7:45 am EDT
Henrik, in the comments, has this to say:
I just got a phone call from a friend of mine. They heard rumours of arrests, but they’re fine, no mass arrests where they are. They are debating if they dare put up their banners.
The story from Paul sounds solid, too. Could there be two separate groups?
That might be the case. But when I spoke to my contacts on the phone, all three reported that police were using their batons while they arrested people and put them in buses.
And here’s something I forgot to report earlier: Aeneas said that people were lying down in front of the police buses, to try to keep them from departing with their cargo of arrested demonstrators.
Update 7:02 am EDT
This just came up in via Google News, from Expatica:
Dewinter to attend banned protest
Vlaams Belang figureheads Filip Dewinter and Frank Vanhecke plan to take part in the banned demonstration against the “Islamisation of Europe” on the Schumanplein in Brussels.
“We will look at what the situation is, but our plan is to join the protest,” says party chairman Vanhecke, who, as member of the European Parliament, will also be receiving the organisation’s list of demands.
“It is not our demonstration, but we sympathise with the aims. I also expect that quite a few of our people will be there.”
On its website the party distances itself from “marginal and obscure neo-Nazi groups that might try to steal the spotlight.”
As reported earlier (see below), Frank Vanhecke is among those arrested.
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Update 6:54 am EDT
According to Flyboy, there are video cameras from local media everywhere, so we should eventually see this in the news.
So far there is nothing about it on Google News.
6:29 am EDT
I just received a phone call from Aeneas, a British blogger who is in Brussels for the SIOE demonstration. It was hard to hear him during our conversation due to the sirens in the background.
The demonstration is proceeding, and, despite the rumors in advance, the Brussels police are not allowing the demonstrators to protest without hindrance. People are being dragged away by the police and put into buses.
Flyboy then got on the phone and told me that riot police have been deployed, and that dogs and water cannon are being used against the demonstrators. There has been no violence except by the police. I could hear the demonstrators chanting and dogs barking in the background.
Paul Belien of the Brussels Journal was the next person to talk to me. He says that there are maybe 500 demonstrators in Schuman Square, and that many of those are being arrested and carried away. He has seen Danish, Swedish, British, American, and Canadian flags on display.
There is a large contingent of Vlaams Belang (the Flemish separatist party) at the demonstration, and the party’s leaders are among those arrested. Mr. Belien says that the president of the party, Frank Venhecke, was beaten to the ground by the police, arrested, and put into a bus.
It seems that the police are trying to arrest everybody at the demonstration. I will add updates when I hear more.