Police ends demonstration of anarchist squatters in Belgium

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Police arrested protesters entering the busy roadway, halting traffic in both directions.

Last Monday, the police entered the abandoned house in Leuven, Belgium, that anarchist squatters had occupied for seven years. None of the squatters were present at the time, mostly due to exams. The premises was evacuated and the police dumped everything inside in containers. The house, which the squatters had baptised Villa Squattus Dei, belongs to the Catholic organisation Opus Dei.

As a reaction, the anarchists had called for a non-violent demonstration on Friday, starting at 20:00 p.m. (UCT+1) in front of city hall of the Flemish university town near Brussels. One of the protesters, who wished to remain anonymous, told Wikinews that the protest was mainly because the squatters were filled with indignation by the way the eviction took place. He also criticised the hypocrisy of the town mayor and politicians in the way they treated the squatters. Several media outlets reported speculation this week that some cases of arson were a retribution to the eviction of the Villa Squattus Dei.

The police had completely cordoned off the Great Market square with barb wire fences. All pubs were closed and the preparation for a festival taking place the next day on the square, were delayed. Well over 100 squatters, anarchists and supporters gathered next to the Great Market. The Flemish radio- and television station VRT reports that prior to the beginning of the demonstration, 10 people were already arrested.

Cat-and-mouse games

The protest gather next to the cordoned off City Hall.

The protesters marched through the city's main streets. At a students house, which according to the squatters belongs to Opus Dei, the protesters threw paint, and a window got broken. During the demonstration, mayor Louis Tobback and alderman Brepoels responsible for housing, the police and Opus Dei were disparaged with slogans which translate to "You can't evacuate ideals, fuck the police, squatting continues" and "Opus Dei get lost, Tobback go to your grave."

The police blocked the crowd's passage to the Court building, but besides a little pushing the demonstration was non-violent up to that point. A police helicopter started tracking the demonstration from the air.

On the Fish Market square, the police were pelted with stones and fireworks. A cameraman from VRT was hit by one of the stones and sustained a minor head injury. A little further down the street, some demonstrators started pushing an officer, and the police used their batons on the assailants, which they arrested.

Since the passage to the city centre was again blocked, the squatters led the protesters to a nearby park to get some rest and regroup. From there, the demonstration moved up a hill, and to the nearby ring road. The police could not prevent the crowd to get onto the busy road, stopping the traffic in both directions. The police decided to take decisive action, with police cars storming in, and officers chasing the scattered crowd through the nearby bushes of the nearby abbey. Dozens of protesters were arrested.

Police besiege squat hideout

Via dark muddy forest roads, what was left over of the squatters and anarchists ended up near the canal harbour, where some of them decided to hide in another squat, an empty house and hangar.

As nearby inhabitants gathered, police reinforcements from several nearby cities arrived in front of the squat house. According to VRT journalists on the scene, some 250 officers pulled an extra shift that day.

Around 22:40 p.m. the police gave their first order to the squatters to evacuate the house. The area around the canal was completely sealed off. Some of the protesters were still among the crowd watching the police force, and the police arrested several more teenage protesters.

Meanwhile, the police shifted their actions to the city centre, where they hoped to arrest several groups who took part in the protest. All night long, police cars drove around in the city centre looking for anarchists and squatters.

Around 23:30 p.m. the squatters were still in their hideout near the canal, but the police force started leaving. There were only a few dozen protesters left in the squat, and the procedure to get a court order to evacuate them from the house hadn't started yet, according to the Chief Constable on the scene.

This morning around 11:00 a.m., the only trace of the squatters left was graffiti on the squat and a flag with anarchist symbols and the words "squat the city".


This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.