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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Wikinews reports from anarchist demonstration in Belgium

>> Full story (and more pictures) : Police ends demonstration of anarchist squatters in Belgium

This Friday, I passed another exam, and to celebrate I decided to do some original reporting. Since I also contribute to the Belgian Indymedia, I got a request from the editor to cover a demonstration of squatters in my home town Leuven.

When I arrived at the rendez-vous point, I was amazed by the impressive amount of security forces present. The police had cordoned off the square in front of city hall with barb wire fence, and a police helicopter followed the movements of the crowd.

The protest was loud but fairly non-violent at first. It's just a matter of positioning yourself as a reporter: sometimes behind the police line (I climbed on a police car to get some great shots of the protesters pushing the policemen) waving your press card, sometimes as far as possible from the police, if it rains projectiles. A colleague from the national TV network was less fortunate and sustained a minor head injury.

The demonstrators were not at all happy with how the police kept them out of the city centre: so they decided to occupy the ring road around the city! Of course the police had to take decisive action -too late, they should've seen it coming and prevented it. The photos of the arrests were a lot better than the ones of the fights in the centre... I really should learn how to use another function than "auto" on my camera.

The police chased the protesters through the bushes... one was chasing me, waving his baton at me -I yelled "PRESS,PRESS!!! You wanna see my card?!" The officers looked really scared and outnumbered. So they called reinforcements: in all, 250 officers worked overtime to control less than 100 protesters (they had already arrested everyone else by then).

I followed the protesters into another squat, an empty house near the canal, where they wanted to hide out from the police. A masked anarchist teenager pulled me by the backpack, and waved a big stick at me as if he was preparing to hit me, but he wanted to here what I had to say for myself first. "Indymedia, man..." I told him, and he immediately apologised. They're all eager readers of the site, and the Indymedia press card was a welcome alternative to the Wikinews card during these protests.

They had clearly been there before, some of there stuff were stored there. But it was too dark for pictures. On leaving, I was stopped by another group of squatters, but again the Indymedia press card did the trick so I could walk out of there with no problem.

After all spectators were scared off the square, I was left with 2 camera crews, from the state and from the main commercial TV station. My credentials were checked a few times. Luckily the police wasn't really paying attention to us: some officers ordered us back, others allowed our free movement... I should really inform myself about the rights I actually had and didn't have.

There would be no action for hours because the police was waiting for a court order, I was cold, sleepy, tore my paints while running on the ring road, and it was too dark for good pictures... I headed home to get a good night's rest before writing 'Police ends demonstration of anarchist squatters in Belgium'.

1 comment:

Mets501 said...

Great pictures, great story, and a great article to go with it :-)