donderdag 26 mei 2016

Unions protest in Brussels - Firm confrontation with the Cops

Last Tuesday the 24th of May the Belgian workers movement (the "socialist" ABVV/FGTB, the christian ACV and the liberal ACLVB) organized a national manifestation in Brussels. Around 60.000 people gathered to protest against the austerity policy and reforms of the Michel-government. Special target of the manifestation was the Minister of Work, Kris Peeters, who wants to flexibilise the 38-hour working week (the so-called 'Loi Peeters', borrowed from the French 'Loi Travail/El-Khomri' and the very militant resistance against it).

A delegation of the ACN/AKN traveled to Brussels to join in on this protest. Not to join the usual circus of the union-bureaucracy, but to support the independent struggle of the workers. Although the whole demonstration was mostly orchestrated by the system-unions, the massive presence of disgruntled workers and activists proved the Belgium workers movement is alive and still has the potential to become a revolutionary force of interest. As long as they liberate themselves from the yoke of the reformist union- and party bosses! 

Thousands protestors fill the streets of Antwerp

The demonstration started with the usual walk through the city center towards the South station. Fireworks were, as is the tradition, ignited and along the way the RVA (employment service) and PS ("socialist" party) offices were besmirched with paint bombs. Notable was the absence of the dockers of Antwerp during this protest. Did they deliberately avoid this manifestation, because the unions helped to abolish the law Major? A combatant and excited atmosphere prevailed among the many protesters. The unions themselves had employed over a thousand security people to keep the manifestation under control.

KVA Office hit by paintbombs and smeared with graffiti

Arriving at the South station the protest turned grim in no time after the cops, under the threat of bat beatings and 6 (!) water canons, tried to push back the flocking crowd. A motley collection of workers, anarchists and local youth gave a proper response to this police provocation, by setting up an improvised blockade with several crush barriers. The coppers were treated with a rain of stones, pyrotechnics and bottles. During the short confrontation that followed, the police chief of Brussels, Pierre Vandermissen, was knocked down by a militant (there seems to be a trend throughout Europe, where militants deliberately target higher police cadres (-> targeted actions), such as in London in Nov. 2015, in Paris and in Nantes). In the fights that followed the cops were able to arrest several comrades.
Cops try to drive back protestors under the threat of bats and watercanons
Preparations for first charge
'Hero of the day' - Chief of Police goes K.O.
With the help of water canons the militants were pushed back under the bridges of the train tracks. Because of a lack of force and cover of the masses (most protesters went straight to the train station, once arrived at the endpoint - set-up of the unions?), this quickly turned into a stand off with the cops, where the stone throwing was from time to time answered by one of the water canons. The resurrection of some barricades proved useless, and more cops closed in on the protesters from three different sides, only leaving open a small gateway to the train station. After this it quickly came to a climax, where most protesters left towards the station.
Watercanons force back militants

Three cops were wounded during the confrontation. Eight protesters were injured by the police violence and another fifteen were arrested. The bourgeois press did what was expected of them, and used this confrontation caused by the cops to criminalize the entire manifestation. Instead of condemning the police violence, the reformists of the union bureaucracy were the first to put the blame on 'the anarchists'. It is clear that for these reformists the class struggle may only be waged within the boundaries that the capitalist order imposes!

Stand off with the cops
Militants set up barricades
Although this national manifestation was less massive and/or militant than its predecessors, all the signals for a hot summer are there. The coming months several actions, strikes and protests will be held against the scandalous austerity politics and reforms of the Michel-government. We will follow these events closely.








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