Terry Davis, Council of Europe, September 11, 2007
Statement by Terry Davis, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, on the march “Against the Islamisation of Europe” today in Brussels.
European values are under threat, say the organisers of a protest march under the banner “Against the Islamisation of Europe” which was due to take place today in Brussels in spite of the ban by the city Mayor. The fact is that Europe and its values are indeed under threat, but the danger is not coming from Islam. Our common European values are undermined by bigots and radicals, both islamists and islamophobes, who exploit fears and prejudice for their own political objectives.
The self-proclaimed defenders of European values say that the Mayor has violated their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. The freedom of assembly and the freedom of expression are indeed essential preconditions for democracy, but they should not be regarded as a licence to offend. I will not enter into the discussion about whether the march should have been allowed or not, but I note that the protesters’ reading of the Convention is selective to say the least. It is very important to remember that the freedom of assembly and expression can be restricted to protect the rights and freedoms of others, including the freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This applies to everyone in Europe including the millions of Europeans of Islamic faith, who were the main target of today’s shameful display of bigotry and intolerance.
Watch video of how the Eurocrats deal with “bigots and radicals” here.
(Posted on September 12, 2007)
I just returned home from the anti-Islamization demonstration in Brussels. The Belgian police beat up the peaceful demonstrators in what even the Belgian public television call “an extremely violent fashion.” Here are some video images. The grey-haired man whom we see being attacked by the police first is Luk Van Nieuwenhuysen, the Vice-President of the Flemish Parliament. Shortly afterwards we see the police maltreating Frank Vanhecke, a member of the European Parliament and the party leader of the Vlaams Belang. We see how he is handcuffed and pushed into a police bus. Afterwards we also see the police “taking care” of Filip Dewinter, the VB group leader in the Flemish Parliament. We see how his arm gets caught between the closing doors of the bus. An Italian MEP and a French MEP were also arrested. The demonstrators were kept in cells for seven hours and released this evening.
One of our readers who wants to stay anonymous sent us this personal impression of the SIOE demonstration:
A Day in Brussels, A Fifty Yard View
Around 10:45, driving around the Luxembourg and Berlaymont areas in Brussels it became obvious the demonstration was en route to become “a whole lot ado ‘bout nothin’ “. It’s hard to say whether there were 12 or 15 dozen demonstrators near the Europarliament Buildings, come noon, how many there were at the Luxemburg plaza or in between, I can’t say, but what was abundantly clear, was that these particular Brussels areas were under siege.
However much the Belgian media portray the SIOE demo as an anti-islam ralley, I wanted to be there because I’ve started reading the Koran about three years ago. I challenge any or other rational opponent of the demonstration to do the same and not be concerned. I happened to be in Brussels, since it matters to me personally, apart from the fact that 9/11 left a profound impression, and to this day still does, that is . . .
I wanted to see for myself how the authorities would react. Seeing is believing. As soon as I saw the might of the police and recognised the efforts the authorities had taken throughout the neighbouring communes, it was pretty clear most of those unorganised individuals who would have wanted to attend simply decided to do a 180 and got the hell out of Dodge. Police outnumbered demonstrators by some 300% (guesswork).
Impressive it was, and although throughout the surrounding area police forces kept to themselves, acting as inconspicuous as pink elephants near the north-pole, the cordon policiaire that had been thrown in front of the demonstrators, (keeping to the stairs of the roundabout opposite the Berlaymont-building), the flashing policecars, the horses, the dogs, and the riot-police stood their ground; in the side-streets numerous riot-cars went to all lengths to be overtly and utterly visible. Police in combat gear stood within shouting distance.
No crowds in their tens of thousands, not all too many banners or cards, some flags here and there, and most of the time the demonstrators were hidden behind the press-camera’s clicking away at God knows what. They didn’t wear combat boots, they didn’t carry any sticks, there were no baseball-bats, they didn’t wear face-masks, and they didn’t rip open the pavement, no window-panes shattered, no refuse-cans were lit, the café was open and sold cofffee and sandwiches, business as usual. The demonstrators probably just voiced grievances, although I can’t tell since I didn’t hear any of it. They may not have shaven their heads, they didn’t wear orange, or off-white sarongs, they didn’t fold their hands in front of them, and they didn’t seek any of their heads to forcefully meet with truncheons, yet…
Yet yes, the demo had been banned, and yes there’s probably laws against unlawfull manifestations, and yes, all those in the midst probably knew what to expect, if push came to shove.
However, … For some or other reason police made a dash towards selected demonstrators and singled out those, who for all intents and purposes didn’t in any way seem ‘aggressive’ from my 50 yard away-off-to-the-side view. All those that were brutally manhandled suffered the hyper-adrenaline anger of some eager roughshot-riding police, and although they put up with the assault, they didn’t as such retaliate. Although they did not quite “resist” the person in authority, one was hard put to tell whether the struggles that ensued, were not caused by the ‘brute way’ in which they were thrown to the ground, or it jus may be they simply wanted to prevent their three-piece suits from being torn. And when they voiced their disagreement with the way they were manacled, they protested the fact that they were manhandled. Some protesters even involuntarily ran in to 2-foot truncheons, that happened to be in the way.
It needn’t have come to that. There was simply no momentum. This was unnecessary. An overreaction to an out of control fenomenon. If the police hadn’t acted as they have,… they would have come out tops. As is the case, and under orders, they’re the losers,… Brussels lost face. If one is treated the way these politicians today have been treated for peacefully protesting against a ban on being allowed to peacefully demonstrate, then there’s something wrong. Acutely and perversely wrong.
For, for example the United States as constitutional democracy, specifically allows for peaceful demonstrations to address social and/or political grievances and specifically allows the freedom of assembly to express these grievances. In the ‘New-Europe’ Capital it is now abundantly clear one has no such rights.
Standing to the side and keeping an ear to the comments numerous french and english onlookers voiced, I happened to overhear a conversation between a tanned, rather curly haired, charismatic young woman and her friends. Obviously foreign, probable Euro-civil servants.
(paraphrasing) “I might not agree to what they do and say, but this is no way to threat people, this is a disgrace”.
This about wraps it all up as far as bystanders go.
Just another day in Brussels,… one to remember.
The demo as such was but a ripple in a pond, strategically however it couldn’t have made a more significant point, mainly because of the way neutral bystanders next to me, reacted to the use of force only to become concerned, which is, above all,… no longer neutral or no longer unconcerned… at least.
I heard but one comment, but through the windows of the adjacent glass-sided buildings a European audience silently stood,… looking, looking.
A day in Brussels,… a fifty yard view.
[Click on the original article to view more footage of the demonstration.]
Frank Vanhecke surrounded by police.