The Belgian anti-war demo in Brussels was huge. While previous mobilisations had 10 000 at most, there now were a lot more. The police spoke about 50 000, but it was more, probably even double the police figure!
15 February. No to war in Iraq. cwi reports from around the world. Belgium.
100 000 demonstrators in Brussels
Amongst the demonstrators there were a lot of people who were unorganised. For some it was the first demo in a long time or even the very first demo ever. There were youth from all over the country who are starting to get organised in local anti-war committees or who participated in local anti-war activities in the past few days and weeks. In the previous week alone there were demonstrations in Sint-Niklaas (500 present), Brugge (450) and Antwerp (600). There also were a lot of immigrants present at the demo.
Demo in support of Belgian government?
Some parties who are in government tried to have a high profile at the demo. The Brussels mayor had been given 5 minutes on local television in the capital to appeal to all inhabitants to take part in the demo. There were contingents of the Social Democrats (PS and SP-A) and the Greens (Ecolo and Agalev). Before the demo several newspapers said the protest would become a sort of support for the Belgian position in NATO where the Belgium government supports the French and German position.
Of course it is clear the Belgian government can only take such a position because its French and German neighbours do this. Belgium, France and Germany also take into account the massive opposition against the war amongst its population. But it is also no coincidence that for example France is careful about its support for the war given the economic links with Iraq. For the Belgian government it was an important gift they could hide behind France and Germany and take up a position of not too openly supporting a US war. According to opinion polls 82% of the population is against a war without UN backing and 68% is against war even with UN backing. Three months before national elections, the parties in government are careful not to go for a confrontation with a majority of voters.
On the other hand the Belgian government does nothing to really oppose the US going to war. On the contrary, they opened up Antwerp harbour and are helping in the transport of military material and thousands of US soldiers who are being sent to the Gulf.
If the Belgian government would take a real position against war, it would not make itself an accomplice of the US war. We not only want words, safely behind the backs of the big European powers, but also deeds. And that means an end to all US military transport through Belgium.
We do not think the demo was an illustration of support for the government. It rather demonstrated what makes the government so careful: a huge and growing movement in opposition to war.
It was a very lively demo. With Linkse Socialistiche Partij(LSP)/ Mouvement pour une Alternative Militant Links(MAS) (Belgian CWI section), Internationaal Verzet – Résistance Internationale (International Resistance) and members of several local anti-war committees we made up a lively group. At the starting point of the demo we were pushed to the end of the demo. But we went forward in the demo and formed a new contingent further up. We had a few hundred members and supporters in our contingent shouting slogans against Blair and Bush, their war for oil,… One of our slogans was: "Nato out of Belgium, Belgium out of Nato".
At the same time a group of comrades were selling stickers and papers. We collected over €1,800 Euro for our fighting fund and sold over 150 papers (on last weeks national demo against the WTO we sold 170 papers).
At the end of the demo there was a speech from our truck announcing how massive the demonstrations all over the world were. We also called to help out in our campaign for Day X (day the war starts). We’re organising actions in more than 10 cities on Day X and to make a success of this, we are building strong anti-war committees.
The huge Brussels demonstration will not be the end of the anti-war movement, and it showed the potential for this still growing protest. This has to be used to make the local anti-war resistance stronger in the schools, factories, universities,…
For more reports and photos in Flemish and French then go to the Linkse Socialistiche Partij(LSP)/ Mouvement pour une Alternative Militant Links(MAS) website:
Written report– in Flemish
Written report– in French