Tens of thousands joined in Day X protests in Belgium. The Linkse Socialistische Partij/Mouvement pour une alternative Socialiste (LSP-MAS), the Belgian section of the CWI, played a key role in all the biggest demonstrations. It is no coincidence that the biggest demonstrations were in Gent, where we have a strong basis. But also in Antwerp, Brussels, Liège and Leuven we played an important role in the big demonstrations.
Day X. Belgium.
CWI leads country wide anti-war protests
We started very early in the morning on Day X. We phoned around to get everyone awake from 4 am onwards. At 4.30 am our first press release was sent out. At 8 am the first demonstrations started from the schools.
In Gent 500 started to demonstrate around 8.30. The demo organised by ISR and the Belgian CWI grew to 5,000! Several school students and students joined in our demo and shouted slogans against the war and against capitalism.
In Leuven we were the main organisers of a 3,000 strong student demo. After the demo there were 3 speeches, 2 of them from CWI members, Peter Delsing and Stefanie Deberdt.
In Antwerp a spontaneous school students’ demo started early in the morning. We joined in this demo and built for our own starting at noon. In the morning some 700 were on the streets, on the noon demo there were 3,000, and again SLP members led the demo.
In Brussels we started from the French speaking university ULB at noon. This demo grew with students from the Dutch speaking university and school students. There were some 3,000 present. CWI member Emiel Nachtegael reported that the demo received huge support from people on the streets. He also said that we had many placards on the demo and shouted slogans like, ’Pas de guerre pour le pétrole’ (No war for oil).
In the meanwhile, there also were actions in Ostend with 1,500 present. Peter Ghyselbrecht reported how hundreds of school students joined in the demo.
In Sint-Niklaas some schools threatened sanctions against school students who would go on strike. Despite this, 250 joined the demo organised by ISR. In other cities there were smaller school student actions with a few hundred on each.
March 20 evening protests
In the evening there were big demonstrations once again.
In Brussels 10,000 gathered in front of the US embassy. This action was organised by a broad coalition of NGO’s and political groups. We had a strong group present. The police attacked the demo and used a water cannon.
In Gent there also was a 10,000 strong demo called by a broad coalition. We were the main force in this coalition and had the main contingent with hundreds of youth shouting slogans against capitalist war. In the speeches from our van we stressed the need to go further than just demonstrations. A European general strike would be a huge step in fighting the interests of big business, the interests for which there now is a war for oil and prestige. At the end of the demo there were three speeches from the broad coalition, two from both of national anti-war platforms and one by Bart Vandersteene for the LSP (CWI).
In Liège, in the Walloon area, the protests illustrated how the LSP/MAS is becoming an important political factor in this French speaking area. Eric Byl reported that 3,000 demonstrated. We played a key role in the demo.
In Antwerp we were the main force in the 2,000 strong evening demonstration. In Leuven there was a peace event with 2,000 present listening to poetry and songs. We thought a demonstration would be a stronger protest and led a march of around 1,000 students shouting slogans. In Kortrijk we led a 1,000 strong demo.
In several other cities the LSP/MAS also organised actions. We had 400 present at our demo in Mechelen, 300 in Aalst, 60 in Turnhout. From our action in Beveren we have no report yet. In some cities we took part in actions organised by broader coalitions. This included a 700 strong demo in Brugge, 500 in Kortrijk and 700 in Ostend.
The Belgian CWI section (LSP/MAS) played a key role in these actions and will continue to build the anti-war movement. Today’s protests show that a strong socialist organisation can make a difference.