Friday, September 21, 2007

On the 11th of September I Broke the Law

A Dane living in Belgium has written an account of the events in Brussels on 9-11-2007. He sent it to us along with this cover note:

I am a Danish citizen who lives in Brussels and had my second wake-up call last year when the cartoon madness kicked off around the globe.

Last Tuesday at the ‘banned’ 9-11 demonstration in Brussels I went there and met the organizers and members from SIOE and other like-minded people.

What happened there can only bring analogies of a Fascist state. The left media have ignored the whole thing or painted it out to be a handful of extremists; the police acted on orders and singled out specific demonstrators in Schuman Square and beat up European MEPs and MPs in a peaceful demonstration

The following day I wrote down the whole account of what I saw and experienced at the demonstration which took place and what I saw and experienced, being mainly on Luxembourg Square in front of the entrance to the EU.

The reason why I am writing you is the frustration many of us feel that they can get away with beating up peaceful people and blank out what happened.

Brussels 9-11

And now his account of the 9-11 demo in Brussels:

On the 11th of September I Broke the Law
by Rolf Krake

To break the law is not something an ordinary law-abiding citizen will want to do, nor is breaking the law anything to be proud of, but on the 11th of September I decided to break the law by exercising what I see as my rightful privilege, my Freedom of Expression, and by doing something which I think touches all of us to some degree: the 9-11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center. I wished to demonstrate in remembrance of the victims of the terror attacks on 9-11, now at its 6th anniversary, and to protest against the Islamization of Europe, which is creeping into our laws, institutions and social liberties, with the emergence of more violence, political and none political, the oppressive instrumentation such as censorship and the right to freedom of expression, not to forget potential terror attacks.

Walking towards the demonstration was a stroll a bit out of the ordinary. The first greeting was the sound from the hovering police helicopter patrolling above. Coming from Avenue D’Auderghem towards Schuman Square I was met by police barricades blocking the road for traffic, but people could pass through. On the last bit I counted twelve armored police vans and various vehicles, the most impressive being the huge water cannon truck. Sirens were heard from here and there

Coming to Schuman Square, it made me smile when I saw two cordons of battle-geared police officers walking in a line. They reminded me of a duck walking with its ducklings in my imagination as I watched the slight funny walk when they are all hampered by carrying their long truncheons, huge boots and leg protection up to their knees, plus the rest of the gear. The Brussels police had brought in the whole cavalry, horses included, which rode in the roundabout.

I decided to scan the area and walked counterclockwise around the roundabout on Schuman Square looking for any demonstrators. So far all I had seen was police ducks and fellow pedestrians, looking towards Parc Cinquentennaire and where you see the mosque of Brussels, a place where demonstrators sometimes stands in the open space towards the park.

There were none, only some police and their various vehicles.

Then coming around to Berlaymont, the old asbestos-infested EU building, there were some people standing and looking towards the other side where part of the new EU office buildings is situated across from Berlaymont, there were of course a considerable number of police ducks and then a huge number of journalists, cameras, photographers and some people I assumed to be demonstrators. I watched for a short while and scanned the area, and while doing so I heard someone say behind me in a conversation “Inshallah, nous sommes tous autours” — meaning — “Inshallah, we are all around” implying the area in the cocky way it was said.

I turned around and saw a bearded dude with a white round capsule on the head and wearing a male dress.
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Shaking my head — was he ridiculous! — I walked straight towards the EU building where the journalists were interviewing various people in three-piece suits, and I started looking for flags but saw none. Most of the people were wearing suits and the rest casual wear, the most flippant were some of the journalists or photographers. I listened in to the different conversations in English, French, and Dutch, all of which I speak and understand, trying to identify them and figure out who they were. I quickly identified the Dutch speakers from the Vlaams Belang, a far-right Belgian political party; some other demonstrators were apparently MPs and MEPs, but still no sign of the SIOE and SIAD. The Vlaams Belang has got a different agenda and they are capitalizing on the demonstration to push their own agenda of cutting Belgium into a Flemish Flanders and a Francophone Wallonia. Their MPs along with other MPs had protested against the ban on the demonstration by the Socialist Brussels mayor Freddy Thielemans.

There had been conflicting information as to where the demonstration was to take place, it was originally planned to be at Luxembourg Square in front of the main entrance, until the Brussels mayor banned the demonstration.

Seeing no sign or any flags and having no interest in Vlaams Belang or the media circus show I quickly decided to go to Luxembourg Square and walked down Rue Artsloi which ironically translates to ‘Law Street’ and there was ‘law’ on this pleasant sunny and shady day everywhere you looked.

Turning away from Rue Artsloi towards Luxembourg Square more police vans and busses were parked on Rue D’Arlon. At all the shops, cafes, sandwich outlets, etc., the street was business as usual, oblivious to the police ducks whom I guess left them a good turnover selling sodas and sandwiches at the end of the day, all very peaceful.

Arriving at Luxembourg Square, there were more police ducks standing all around the square. Despite that everything looked ‘normal’, the occasional chop-chop from the helicopter adding to noise from the busses and cars driving as normal, all the cafés were open, the terrasses were full of guests having lunch or having coffee, and everything looked well looked-after by massive numbers of bored police ducks — another touch to go with the lunch for the guests at the terrasses sitting under the parasols and awnings.

Then there, finally I saw some people with flags in front of the entrance to the EU and I joined them, pleased to discover that more than half to three quarters of the flags were Danish. There were about fifty to seventy people present surrounded by five to ten times that number of police ducks, vans ready to take anyone for a ride. It was anyone’s guess how many police ducks were there, but it was strikingly disproportionate number, and then of course the media in the various outfits standing on the pavement in front of the entrance to the ‘Cathedral Of Corruption’ — as it is called in street jargon due to the scandal of the three hundred millions which disappeared building it — the new EU building.

Bearing a national flag or banner that day in Brussels would mean immediate arrest and therefore most of the people had flag pins attached to their shirt, suit or jacket and almost all wore Danish pin flags, Danes and also non-Danes. Some Danes had small birthday party paper flags; the demonstrators came from the UK, Denmark, Russia, Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia.

The original estimate had been 20,000 people but less than a hundred were present at Luxembourg Square.

The arrest hanging over their heads and the massive intimidating police duck presence was more or less ignored and people they stood and chatted, equally oblivious to the plainclothes police officer with a Mr. Smith earpiece among the demonstrators who chit-chatted just as much. The Danes had equally big Danes with ear pieces, and everything was peaceful and in the best order. The demonstrators ranged from twenty years old to octogenarians, a third of them in suits and the rest in casual wear. Nobody wore boots either, but it was a mixture of intellectuals, from people in suits to long-haired half-hippie types and women in high heels — ordinary people, in other words.

The demonstration’s other purpose was to get together and exchange contacts, information and talk and discuss various issues.

The situation was getting tense and the police ducks were getting nervous after a high-ranking police officer with a gold-adorned cap arrived in a car and started to talk to the police ducks sitting in the car just beside the pavement where we all stood, oblivious to the presence of the police, with no banners, no flag waving, nothing but chatting.

Anders Gravers from SIAD made a speech while the few numbers we were simply gathered in a circle, after telling the crowd the various reasons for why we are gathered here today came the moment of remembrance of the 9-11 victims six years ago, and to honor them with the one minute of silence…

After ten seconds someone suggested we all sit down, the street noise was overwhelming, with city busses and cars, so we all sat down in silence and it was a very powerful moment which filled even the police ducks with a sense of unease after the high ranking officer had told them we had to break up. The moment also caught the passers-by from across the street, from the bar and terrasse watching while everyone sat in silence and looked down towards the ground. We all knew we risked to be arrested and everything had been tried to prevent the remembrance from happening on the 11th of September 2007 in the capital of Europe, in spite of water cannons, horses, impressive amounts of vehicles, whole regiments of battle-dressed police, barbed wire fences in strategic places, helicopters, and the media, and sandwich bars going on as usual, making the whole thing surreal in regard to a handful of people who managed to ignore all that and manifest the remembrance of the 9-11 terror attacks with sitting down in silence — this time to protest against the ban and in favor of freedom of expression.

We all had our different reasons and feelings for being there. The Poles said simply, “to be arrested we are used to, we have lived under the communist regime and this won’t stop us,” and the Czechs and the Russians agreed.

The Brussels mayor and the Belgian authorities had done everything they could to prevent it from happening. They had contacted Anders Gravers from SIAD in Denmark and told him that there had been threats of a terror attacks, and that there was a risk that someone would blow up with an explosive belt, that it could cause unrest, none of which was the case, but a white lie and an attempt to frighten SIAD into making them cancel the demonstration which Socialist mayor Freddy Thielemans had forbidden. There had been protests in front of the Belgian embassy in Denmark and other countries to protest against the ban, but on Friday the 7th the court had turned down a demand to lift the ban.

Rumors about skinheads and Muslim gangs, counter-demonstrations, and riots had circulated, but there was none of either, Islamists most certainly kept away by the police and most probably by the promise of the mayor to ban the demonstration. Still, some were to be seen in pairs here and there with mobile phones, but there was none of what the mayor had sold to the media to falsely justify a ban, thus acknowledging ironically that terror threats and extremism is what it is all about and banning a peaceful demonstration using the threat of political violence, assassination and riots as an excuse against a peaceful demonstration of citizens exercising their freedom of expression and protesting against Islamization and terrorism.

All that I digested sitting in silence in remembrance of 9-11, and which all of us had discussed and beyond.

After sitting in silence, the discussions continued and we listen to various voices. Anders Gravers and Stephen Gash from SIOE had been busy back and forth with interviews; the media attention was enormous considering the number of demonstrators.

Meanwhile this had taken place at Schuman Square:

I just returned home from the anti-Islamization demonstration in Brussels. The Belgian police beat up the peaceful demonstrators in what even the Belgian public television call “an extremely violent fashion.” Here are some video images. The grey-haired man whom we see being attacked by the police first is Luk Van Nieuwenhuysen, the Vice-President of the Flemish Parliament. Shortly afterwards we see the police maltreating Frank Vanhecke, a member of the European Parliament and the party leader of the Vlaams Belang. We see how he is handcuffed and pushed into a police bus. Afterwards we also see the police “taking care” of Filip Dewinter, the VB group leader in the Flemish Parliament. We see how his arm gets caught between the closing doors of the bus. An Italian MEP and a French MEP were also arrested. The demonstrators were kept in cells for seven hours and released this evening.

And this:

The Italian government is lodging a formal complaint with the Belgian authorities after one of its European Members of Parliament was arrested during a demonstration against the “Islamisation of Europe”. The rally had been banned by the Mayor of Brussels for fear it would threaten public order. Among those detained was Italian Northern League member Mario Borghezio. He was arrested along with other European politicians.

Italy claims his arrest violated his right to diplomatic immunity. Borghezio challenged the decision of the Belgians to stop the protest in the first place: “It doesn’t seem normal to me that on the 11th of September, in a European capital, a demonstration involving European parliamentarians, against fundamentalist Islamic terrorism, can be banned.”

The European Union’s top justice and security official, Franco Frattini, also said the protest should have been allowed in the name of free speech. But a total of 154 people were arrested. They were released after a few hours.

It is a disgrace and unbelievable that they crack down even on politicians exercising their freedom of expression.

Everyone was also pissed off with the Vlaams Belang for other reasons because they had couped the demonstration and had tried to take away the press conference from Gravers and Gash.

With what was going on at Schuman Square where the police ducks happily were beating away on the MEPs, the MPs, and demonstrators, I presume that they were the reason behind why the police ducks visibly were starting to get nervous after talking to the officer with the gold-adorned cap.

The demonstration at Luxembourg Square was absolute peaceful and jovial was then told to break up, they apparently had received the order from the gold-adorned cap and we all gave phone numbers to SIOE to be told where to meet on a later specified place but that never happened…

Nor did the mayor succeed in making a splatter fest on Luxembourg Square.

The Vlaams Belang had nothing to do with SIAD and SIOE, but they tried to capitalize on the whole thing being in Schuman Square. What was scandalous was that they got arrested along with MPs and MEPs. Belgian politics are fierce these days, the mayor being Socialist with apparently Fascist tendencies and the VB advocating a secession of Belgium, adding another dimension to the mess.

The intention of the police on Luxembourg Square was probably to get all of the demonstrators separated, but that was never the case either. All of the demonstrators decided simply to go across the street to the terrasses on Luxembourg Square and sat down at the tables and all continued to discuss. blending in with the rest of the guests and drinking beer and coffee. The police were just left standing nonplussed; all demonstrators had obeyed their every demand and been peaceful and jovial.

Then the unthinkable happened a couple of hours later: the Brussels mayor Freddy Thielemans arrived with eleven other people and sat down at a table just besides ours at Taverne London, the mayor being oblivious to the fact that the terrasses were full of the demonstrators — at Luxembourg Square the terrasses and bars are frequented by EU employees having lunch and having drinks, and none noticed the mayor at first, either, and none of us stood out in any way, just looking like guests.

He was cracking jokes and laughed with his companions; he had had his field day turning Brussels into an occupied zone, had 154 people arrested and ran a nasty smear campaign prior to all that; cheers. Then he got recognized and then we started talking to him and his fellow friends. They quickly recognized us after seeing the small flag pins. Some had their pictures taken behind him for souvenirs; we all started laughing at the absurdity of simply still being there looking like ordinary people all around him while he had his supposed victory toast, and probably checking out Luxembourg Square that everything had been to his liking.

It made my day.

I had the fine opportunity after he had asked where we all came from, to ask his table what ‘Freedom of Speech’ meant. Some shook their heads and then I repeated in French, then to humiliate him further I told them it reminded me of a return to the 1930’s and that I thought the mayor was behaving like a Fascist — I let it sink in, and then I added that “you know, we have got no Fascists in Denmark, but we love cartoons and we still have got freedom of expression.”

It felt good.

The whole scenery and event of the afternoon proved the point.

I suppose it got him thinking. Others started to ask him questions and he had smiles all around and cheers, though most with sarcastic twists but his cocky attitude had vanished, some of his companions looked with unease on the mayor being called a Fascist — that was very sweet; others too told him they thought he was a Fascist and I think it dawned on some of his companions, discovering that every single guest being a rational and down-to-earth person.

After a while he left with his troop and some said thanks for coming and having us here.

Then during the afternoon some people left to catch planes or trains and the rest gathered in an Irish bar next door called O’Farrel’s where we got all the back of the bar to ourselves provided nobody smoked cigarettes — that is banned too — and that we all consumed for more than €250, business as usual in Brussels. We happily complied and ordered pints of beer, so the amount was easily reached.

The whole thing was worth it and with SIOE to start in Poland, the Czech Republic, Belgium and Russia, it was decided to reject all political parties with the rational decision that SIOE can’t support any political parties but all political parties can support SIOE and speak their cause — As Anders Gravers illustrated to a journalist asking him if he was rightwing he asked back “Tell me if it is rightwing or leftwing to be against stoning?”

The journalist didn’t know what to answer.

There were no real right-wingers and left and center were represented, with now about thirty demonstrators left, the core of the demonstration, with a multitude of nationalities, and many Danes. Basically everyone already rejected political attachment — the whole point is to preserve Western liberty and constitutions and European culture, the foundation of what it makes it possible in the first place to have political parties and individual freedom.

The future and strategies of SIOE were discussed, Stephen Gash and Anders Gravers gave their account of the event of the day and many a cheer for liberty was given into the later hours.

All this makes me happy in a strong sense that I decided to break the law on the 11th of September 2007, six years after the terror attacks on the twin towers in New York and on the Pentagon, and that being in the European capital where it was forbidden to remember the victims of 9-11 on the sixth anniversary, and to protest against the political prohibition and ban on freedom of speech, all being there with the risk of being arrested and beaten up by police, and under threats of terror attacks voiced by the Belgian authorities and Brussels mayor to further intimidate and prevent people from showing up. In so many ways was the demonstration sought to be squelched; it is surreal; it is a disgrace to the capital of Europe.

Not being someone who fancies demonstrations, it was quite impressive to see the whole cavalry of police, quite impressive… And that being against my voice.

The whole thing is food for thought…


History Snark said...

Nicely written, Rolf. A pleasure to read- especially the "police ducks".
Thanks for going, and for writing your account. And thanks to BB for including it.

It does seem more and more surreal- diplomats being arrested, politicians being beaten, citizens harassed, etc.

Glad to know that Fat Freddy showed up to gloat. Even better to know he was embarrassed.