My recent trip to Brussels – a city laden with armed officers since the 2016 terror attacks – was deeply insightful, but somewhat disturbing.
As I walked around the European Parliament building, I noticed many police officers organizing their gear in a cluster towards the front of the “Station Europe” building located to the fore of Parliament.
Minutes later, I heard chanting coming the grassy clearing beyond that – where I imagine many a protester has come and gone. It looked the perfect place to stage a protest to be honest. Right in the face of what many consider ‘the establishment’.
Before I could even get my camera out – predicted what was ahead – the Belgian police force moved in to quash any chance of unrest. It appeared they were given a single warning before being detained. Although I was unable to see or find out what the protest had been about, in the seconds before retrieving my camera, it appeared to me to be a protest for the freedom of a single individual (possibly Turkish – from asking other observers) – as there was a picture of a man on the front of their largest banner. It was quite clear that the Belgian officers were not risking the possibility of any escalation so close to the parliament building in light of recent terror events – which is of course understandable. Nonetheless, it made me question what exactly these people had done besides stand on some grass and hold up a few flags. It’s easy for me to say this I know – not having been present in the city for the atrocity – but it was an insight into the tentative atmosphere that is beginning to arise in many European cities.
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