Belgium: Cockerill workers face police brutality in Luxemburg

On 17 April more than 2,500 workers from the threatened Cockerill steel works went to Luxemburg to protest against the planned closure of a part of their factory near Liège. Members of the Linkse Socialistiche Partij / Mouvement pour une Alternative Socialiste (CWI affiliated party in Belgium) joined the protest.

The protest made noisy progress through the city and headed for the heavily protected headquarters of the steel multinational Arcelor which owns Cockerill. In the short rally there was a lot of noise, but few slogans. The mood was dark, the anger and despair could be read on the faces of many workers. The anger against the traditional politicians and the logic of the bosses was huge. Most workers came to express their anger in a peaceful way, despite the economic violence of which they are a victim.

On arriving near Arcelor headquarters the demonstrators met large numbers of the Luxemburg police force. They used water cannon and tear gas against demonstrating workers. A trade union member said: "It’s a scandal to welcome us in this way, we’re here only to defend our jobs." Faced with the aggression of the police, some protestors started to throw stones. The reaction of the police was totally out of control: two police vans drove into the demo at full speed to try to disperse the demo. We had to push aside fellow protestors in order to ensure they were not hit by the police cars. One police van drove right into a car belonging to members of the FGTB (socialist union) which carried a sound system for the demo.

At that moment there was total confusion. Few union shop stewards and officials were there to give a direction to the demonstrators. The police responded to steel workers’ resistance with vicious attacks, beating some steel workers and even firing plastic bullets at them! Seven demonstrators were wounded, one of them after being hit by a police van.

The media only showed images of the workers’ resistance, they didn’t show the repression and brutality of the police. They obviously want to criminalise the workers. Several press pictures also can be used in legal procedures against workers who defended themselves against the brutal attack.

We have no illusions in the capitalist press, but we do expect some standards of objectivity from journalists who like to present themselves as being "neutral". These sort of press articles clearly show the need of an independent workers press.

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April 2003